Friday, June 24, 2011

Ramsgate Animal Exports - A Personal View

I was stopped in the street in Westgate this week and asked for my opinion on a topic of local concern. Quite understandably, there's been a great deal of heated debate on the subject of the animal export traffic presently going through the port of Ramsgate.

Writing on a directly personal and moral basis I'm absolutely opposed to this awful trade which leads to such appalling suffering. The same is true of every town, county and district councillor I've spoken to of all political parties in Thanet.

It's a matter of real concern which has been discussed and explored at length and with the benefit of all the legal and professional advice available and as you may have read from the council press releases, it's a sordid trade over which  the council has no control. The welfare aspect lies under the control of DEFRA and the trade is governed by national and European legislation, which determines access to our ports and the free movement of trade between member states.

Previous court cases, against the Port of Dover and Portsmouth International Port, ruled that there was no legal basis for refusing the export of live animals and that it was a lawful trade. As a result, I'm told, that Thanet council is in much the same position as Dover and does not have the legal right to refuse this trade at the port.

Without going into great detail, here's some background history for those readers whose concerns I share.

The Labour party, when in opposition, promised to ban the export of live animals. (A promise made by Dr Gavin Strang MP as Shadow Agriculture Minister in about 1998.) They knew then that to do so would be in breach of EU trade law and for thirteen years while Labour were in office, they took no action to prevent the trade.

KALE (Kent Against Live Exports) led the campaign against the Dover trade but were equally unable to stop the business - again because of EU law.

Conservative Animal Welfare policy has always been, and remains, that meat should be transported "on the hook" not on the hoof and that animals should be slaughtered as close to the point of production as possible. Unfortunately our EU "partners" do not share this more enlightened view and so we have had to concentrate our effort in seeking to ensure as humane transport as possible but of course the reality is that once animals have left our shores we have no control over their fate.

People have an absolute right to protest this trade but to imply in public or suggest, as I've read elsewhere, that  local Labour has an answer, when their last Government failed so miserably to deal with animal welfare or that Thanet council can take action to prevent what is taking place, is disingenuous and misleading. There's an opportunistic political agenda in play here, when in fact the we should be asking ourselves why a European Union that ostensibly regards animals as "sentient" is so easily prepared to ignore such suffering in the interests of  cross-border free trade.


Ogmios said...

Stand by for a surprise. I agree 100% with this post. The trade is abominable and our EU partners should be ashamed. However there is no point TDC wasting our money on court action that will result in loss - as you say both Portsmouth and Dover have tried and failed. The only thing I wonder is whether the trade could be subject to some sort of (expensive) licensing process or Port Ramsgate could surcharge the Jolene because of the extra policing costs?

DrM. said...

This suggestion has been raised before but it's an open port and I understand we are unable to discriminate against the traffic going through it on such grounds.

Ogmios said...

Looking at the Jolene I would say that it is highly unlikely that she could make the crossing in the winter.
If there is nothing legal that can be done then All councillors need to make this clear; including those busy organising protests and holding meetings outside their ward.

Michael Child said...

Simon I have looked at this thing from different angles and have to say I am now in agreement there doesn’t seem to be anything the council can do to stop this trade.

An obvious question there, does the council have an animal welfare policy? I was thinking that if it does it should be possible to at least make sure thet the animals are properly fed watered and mucked out.

I suppose the thing that irritates me the most is that I haven’t really got a leg to stand on as this is a by-product of uk milk production, that produces a huge amount of unwanted calves, with no substantial uk veal industry.

Like most of the rest of us I drink milk and want to be able to buy it as cheaply as possible, with four children there are added economic restraints.

Tony said...

Once again another example of the EU telling us what to do, whether we like it or not.Another good reason for us to get out and decide our future for ourselves. When is there going to be a Prime Minister with the guts to have a referendum on the EU?

DrM. said...

The immediate penalty of beng in coalition with Mr Clegg is that the Conservative party is unable to execute its mmanifesto policies on Europe. E.g replacing europe's human rights act with our own

John \|Kirby said...

From John Kirby - I just hope that our local activist Councillor will listen to objections to this trade that have been shot down in other areas of the UK and realise his ambitions to me seem to be totally grandstanding - TDC has explored every avenue of objection to stop this horrible trade and have been told until the law is changed - you are stuck with what you have.
Many laws in this country could and should be changed - Milly Dowler - comes to mind - but until there is a change of EU Law on this matter - and our ability to challenge it life will go on.

Ogmios said...

One thing for protesters to bear in mind. The poor animals are already stressed - running the gauntlet of howling protesters, especially if it involves missiles, just increases that stress.
The empty lorries usually come back through Dover - shorter journey for the poor old drivers

ascu75 aka Don said...

I being an ex butcher and slaughterman cannot see what all the fuss is about. We have the stricktest standards here on animal welfare and slaughter and the laws governing welfare while here are adhered too. We should be lobbying for the EU to have the same standards not jepordising farmers who export stock and bring income into UK Plc.

Tony said...

Make your mind up Don, you say you cannot see what all the fuss is about, then quote one of the reasons for protests, ie: what happens when they leave these shores.