On Air Now
Early Breakfast with Jenni Falconer 4am - 6:30am
Thanet South MP, Laura Sandys has led a debate on Live Animal Exports in the House of Commons. This is a report from the Pres Association's parliamentary team.
Britain should ban live animal exports to Europe, MPs heard today.
The trade in livestock from the UK to the continent should be scrapped with only slaughtered meat sent, the Commons was told.
Conservative Laura Sandys demanded animal welfare inspections be stepped up until the exports can be scrapped.
She said: "Ultimately, it is the will of my constituents that we should be looking to get a ban on live animal exports.
"There is no reason why we should not be able to get good value for our animals and export them having been slaughtered.''
Her call came after 42 sheep which arrived at Ramsgate in Kent ready for the cross-Channel voyage were put down because they were lame, reigniting the row about exporting livestock from the UK.
The incident led to renewed calls for the trade to be stopped over animal welfare fears and Thanet District Council suspended live animal exports from the port.
The row echoes the controversy in the 1990s when protesters blockaded ports on the south and east coasts of England demanding a halt to live exports.
The RSPCA recently delivered a report to Thanet Council claiming Ramsgate Port's facilities were inadequate and warning of severe problems with animals in an emergency.
Only one boat, the MV Joline, carries live animals from Britain to Europe, and it was built in the 1980s as a roll on, roll off ferry to take Soviet tanks across rivers.
Following Thanet Council's temporary ban, operations were switched to Ipswich in Suffolk, before Thanet Council agreed to allow exports from Ramsgate again pending a High Court case.
Each time the Latvian-registered Joline sails, up to 40 protesters calling for live exports to be banned picket the port. Campaigners say the 184ft vessel is unsuitable for transporting lorries carrying animals.
Last month she set sail in strong winds but her crew was forced to abandon the journey across the English Channel, returning to Ramsgate where hundreds of sheep were unloaded and driven back to farms before a second voyage could be attempted.
Opening today's backbench-led debate, South Thanet MP Ms Sandys said: "We are talking about a ship that's not equipped to go across the Channel, despite our regulators saying it is.
"It is equipped to be on freshwater river crossings, not across the Channel in the middle of winter.
"We have already had a major crisis where animals were taken halfway across the Channel and had to return because the boat was not capable of managing the seas.''
Ms Sandys told the Commons some farmers received higher prices for their flocks on the continent than in Britain, but questioned how the trade was profitable.
She believed animals, whose journey often begins in northern England or the Midlands, were being transported to southern France, Greece and Spain, via Ramsgate.
"I still don't understand the business model that can actually deliver value by the time you take the animal from one part of Europe right down to another part of Europe with transportation costs, licence costs, etc,'' she said.
"There are few benefits to this trade and it is indicated by the significant drops in numbers with animals being traded out.''
Ms Sandys called for tougher inspections from Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) officials to limit the animals being sent to France.
She added: "The competent authority is Defra and we need gold standard inspection, enforcement and licensing.
"It is absolutely crucial we ensure the powers we have are very, very aggressively exercised in this trade.''