Thanet council suspends Ramsgate live animal exports

image captionThe RSPCA said two sheep were put down, two died in an accident and 41 were destroyed

Live animal exports have been temporarily suspended at the Port of Ramsgate after an incident in which 45 sheep died.

Thanet council, which has previously called on the government to stop live exports, suspended them on Thursday.

On Wednesday, 43 sheep were put down after a lorry was stopped at the port. The drivers were arrested and bailed.

In a separate accident, a loading area floor collapsed while the sheep were taken off the lorry and two more died.

'Welfare responsibilities'

Six fell in the water and four were rescued by RSPCA officers, but two drowned.

The 43 that were destroyed were examined by vets who found that one had a broken leg, another was so sick it had to be put down, and 41 were severely lame.

None of the animals could reach their drinkers in the vehicle, the RSPCA said.

Thanet District Council, which owns the port, said the ban would be lifted after suitable facilities for animals had been built there, but that depended on the cost of building and running facilities and whether it would be a priority of the council.

Council leader Clive Hart said: "Thanet District Council recognises that live exports are a lawful trade, but we are also conscious of our responsibilities regarding the welfare of animals passing through our port.

"We are saddened to see animals arrive at our port in this condition and it underlines the need to implement EU regulations strictly in order to avoid any suffering caused to the animals."

'Concerns justified'

Earlier, Laura Sandys, Thanet South MP, and the RSPCA met government ministers after calling for urgent talks.

Following the meeting, agriculture minister David Heath said the events were unacceptable and he had ordered an immediate review.

image captionThe sheep were unloaded into a holding pen while the hauliers looked for another vehicle

He said he had also instructed the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) to take a zero tolerance approach to enforcing and maintaining animal welfare.

"We would prefer to see animals slaughtered as close as possible to where they are reared, but as long as this trade remains legal I urge the RSPCA to work cooperatively with the authorities to ensure the smooth running of the operation at Ramsgate."

Thanet council later announced that live exports had been suspended at the port.

The AVHLA said it had asked trading standards officers to investigate potential breaches of animal welfare regulations and could possibly prosecute over the incident.

Thanet councillor Ian Driver, overview and scrutiny panel chairman, also said he would be taking steps to set up a full investigation into what happened.

He added: "On 7 September, Thanet council wrote to Environment Minister Owen Patterson expressing serious concerns about the shipments of live farm animals from Ramsgate and asking for permission to stop further exports.

"Five days later, these terrible events have shown our concerns to be fully justified."

media captionThe government has ordered an urgent review into what happened at the port

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