Ramsgate Live Exports Re-Start
Live animal exports have resumed at the Port of Ramsgate after a High Court rules a temporary suspension must been lifted.
Dozens of protesters gathered at the Port as lorries containing sheep arrived there to be transported to the Continent.
At the High Court on Tuesday, Thanet District Council was ordered to allow live animal movements to resume until the outcome of a judicial review into its decision to suspend the trade.
Speaking at the port, James West, campaign manager for Compassion in World Farming, said seven trucks containing sheep arrived there this morning.
He said: "People took the suspension by Thanet District Council as a victory that would stop the trade at least in the short term until the judicial review outcome.
"But now people are back here as sheep are being exported live to the Continent again. We think that all animals should be slaughtered at the point of production and be transported as carcasses rather than live.
"They are bound for conditions that are considerably worse than in the UK.''
The suspension by Thanet District Council was introduced last month after 42 sheep which arrived at the port in a lorry unfit for transporting live animals had to be put down due to their lameness. A further two drowned and two suffered broken legs.
The deaths occurred after the RSPCA provided a report to the council in the summer highlighting the port's inadequate facilities and warning of severe problems with animals in an emergency.
A letter co-written by leading council members was then sent to Environment Secretary Owen Paterson making requests, including an urgent establishment of a livestock resting facility in Kent.
The local authority said the suspension would be lifted if suitable facilities could be built within the port and if it deemed it a priority compared with other issues.
Following the suspension at Ramsgate, the operation moved to Ipswich but the Suffolk port's owners also halted exports amid concerns about suitable facilities there.
Thanet District Council then received notice that it faced a judicial review over its decision to suspend exports at Ramsgate. Officials said they still plan to mount a "vigorous defence'' of the action.
Council leader Clive Hart said this week: "The appalling incidents of September 12 were a very clear and practical indication to the council that the Port of Ramsgate is not an appropriate place to carry out the export of live animals.
"This is something we had been explaining to government agencies consistently for many months previously. The council is very clear in our view of this trade.
"However, if, despite our strongest possible efforts to ensure the welfare of animals moving through the Port of Ramsgate, the High Court still determines that the port must reopen to this trade, then our hands are absolutely tied.''
He said discussions will take place with the council's lawyers to work out how to progress its case.
Protests had been held at Ramsgate before the suspension, reviving memories of clashes in the 1990s when Britain was one of Europe's biggest live exporters.
Actress Joanna Lumley joined calls for an end to the "abhorrent'' trade, saying it was "unbelievable'' that Britain was still sending young animals on exhausting journeys to the Continent.
But in defence of the controls in place, the National Farmers' Union (NFU) has said that journeys of more than eight hours make up a very small minority of movements.
And it said the protection of animals during transport has improved considerably in recent years and current regulations do not compromise animal welfare.