Update: Joanna Lumley backs live export protesters in Ipswich

PROTESTERS have gathered in Ipswich in anticipation of the arrival of live sheep due to be exported from the port.

The move was immediately condemned by the RSPCA and other animal welfare charities and actress Joanna Lumley sent a message of support to them, saying she was “horrified” by the news.

RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant described animal exports as a “vile trade”.

Thousands of sheep were carried through the port’s West Bank terminal on a special shipment to Calais. There were about 20 protesters at the port entrance, watched over by more than a dozen police officers.

The force helicopter was also flying overhead and the lorries were given a police escort.

There were jeers and shouts as the cargo entered the port gates but no arrests were made. One person was warned by officers about his behaviour.

The shipment was switched to Ipswich after Ramsgate port, in Kent, suspended its use for live animal exports after a number of sheep died while being carried through the port.

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Mr Grant said: “I, like my colleagues, and all those who fight for the animals, breathed a sigh of relief last week when we heard that there had been a suspension of this awful trade at Ramsgate.

“But now we feel somewhat cheated and bitterly disappointed that this vile trade has just been shifted through the back door and is trying to carry on at a different port.”

Several lorries of live sheep were taken from Ipswich to Calais on the Latvian-registered vessel Joline – a former Soviet tank transporter.

Members of Kent Action Against Live Exports (KAALE) and Compassion in World Farming heard about the move just hours before the lorries arrived.

James West, from Compassion in World Farming, said Ipswich was the only UK port still open for live animal exports.

He said: “Ramsgate suspended the trade after about 45 sheep died during transit there last week. The exporters looked for somewhere else and Ipswich was the only place that was still open to them.”

Compassion in World Farming also received support last night from actress Joanna Lumley, who said she was “horrified” to hear Ipswich was becoming the “hub” for the live exports.

In a statement, she said: “I have no doubt that the majority of Ipswich townsfolk will be horrified to find this ugly trade in animal misery on their doorstep.”

The live export is the first through Ipswich for about five years – and Mr West warned the animals faced an unpleasant journey.

“The vessel only goes about seven knots which is only about a third of the speed of most cross-channel ships,” he said.

“From Ipswich it is likely to take at least 10 hours – and that is an appalling ordeal for the animals.”

A spokeswoman for Associated British Ports, which owns Ipswich port, said: “As the statutory harbour authority for the Port of Ipswich, ABP is legally bound to handle all legitimate traffic. The shipment of livestock is a legal trade in the United Kingdom, monitored and regulated by Government agencies such as Defra.” Protesters claimed the shipment was likely to lead to more trips with live animals.

However, the ABP spokeswoman said that at present the company did not know whether there would be any further shipments through the port.

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