Ipswich: Relief as controversial live exports are suspended at port

EXPORTS of live sheep from the West Bank Terminal in Ipswich have been suspended with immediate effect, it emerged today.

The RSPCA said Associated British Ports bosses had agreed to close the port to sheep exports because it would not have the necessary facilities in an emergency.

A shipment of live sheep through the port last Friday attracted a major protest – and there had been fears that there could be two or three shipments a week over the autumn.

However after talks between RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant and ABP officials, the decision was taken to suspend the shipments.

He said: “I am delighted that ABP have suspended this dire trade. They are taking their responsibilities seriously to the animals.

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“ABP have acknowledged to the RSPCA that, like Ramsgate, their port did not have suitable facilities to help the animals should an emergency arise. Sadly, we saw the unacceptable suffering in Ramsgate in just such an emergency.”

The week before the Ipswich shipment 45 sheep died at Ramsgate – two drowned after falling in the sea and 43 had to be put down because they were injured.

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Mr Grant added: “I am aware that the National Farmers Union is making efforts to re-open Ramsgate. I say to them that they should respect the views of the people of Ramsgate, Ipswich and this country that there is no place in a civilised and compassionate society for this vile trade that causes so much suffering to animals.”

The suspension was welcomed across the town.

Borough council leader and Labour parliamentary candidate David Ellesmere is speaking at a protest meeting tonight.

He said: “This is the best possible news. I welcome the fact that the town will no longer be associated with this trade.”

As council leader he had been frustrated there was nothing the borough could do to.

He added: Mr Ellesmere said: “The borough has no jurisdiction over what happens at the port any more. The port was privatised in the 1990s and we cannot do anything about what is carried through there.

“The situation is different to that at Ramsgate where Thanet Council owns the port.”

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer also welcomed the news.

He said: “This shows that the port was prepared to listen to the concerns of a respected organisation like the RSPCA and were persuaded that there were potential dangers for the animals.”

A spokesman for ABP said: “We can confirm that there are no arrangements in place for further shipments.”

Tonight’s meeting at the Town Hall is due to go ahead. Speakers from the RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming will be joined by local protesters and those from Kent to signal their opposition to the trade.

The meeting is due to start at 6.30pm – and is now likely to be seen as a victory celebration by campaigners.

Are you pleased that live shipments have been suspended? Write to Your Letters, Ipswich Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail starletters@archant.co.uk

Live exports timeline:

1995: Massive protests in Brightlingsea over live exports of animals.

1995-2005: Ban on live exports because of fears over BSE.

2007: Consignment of sheep sailed from the West Bank Terminal – it turned out to be a one-off.

2011: Ramsgate port in Kent established as main terminal for live exports.

September 2012: Live exports at Ramsgate suspended after 45 sheep die.

21 September 2012: Live export shipment leaves Ipswich for Calais – there are fears it could be the start of regular service.

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