Exports of live animals through the port of Ramsgate will face tougher welfare checks, Food and Farming Minister David Heath announced today.
The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) have been asked to increase inspections so that every consignment scheduled to pass through the port at Ramsgate is thoroughly inspected for any signs of distress or injury to the animals onboard. This increased level of inspections will remain until the Government is satisfied that there is no longer a high risk to the welfare of the animals involved in the live export trade.
This follows an incident in September at Ramsgate where more than 40 sheep died at the port.
Food and Farming Minister David Heath said:
“We would prefer to see animals slaughtered as close as possible to where they are reared, but while live animal exports remain a legal trade under European laws we must allow it to continue.
“Our animal welfare laws must be followed to the letter so that no animal is made to suffer during transport. Until I am entirely satisfied that there is no longer a risk to the welfare of animals at Ramsgate, I have ordered AHVLA to check every consignment of live animals scheduled to pass through the port. I want a zero tolerance approach - if we find any evidence of slipping welfare standards then we will not hesitate to take action.”
“In addition, following the shocking events at Ramsgate on 12 September, we are tightening up our procedures to deal with breaches of welfare standards. It is completely unacceptable that more than 40 sheep died unnecessarily and I am determined that this cannot happen again. I intend to visit the port at the next available opportunity and witness the loading and inspection process myself.”
AHVLA inspectors have been told to take a zero tolerance approach to any breaches of the welfare regulations where unnecessary suffering to animals is caused.
Additional measures announced today include:
- AHVLA implementing its own contingency plans in the event of an emergency if the transporter is unwilling or unable to implement their own plans within two hours;
- Improved procedures to ensure an AHVLA vet is always within an hour of the port to assist AHVLA inspectors in the event of an emergency or welfare concern;
- Working with the operator of the transport vessel to develop new contingency measures in the event of an emergency;
- Restricting changes that the transporter can make to the journey log of the delivery prior to the export. This will help maintain clear records of the animals during the journey; and
- Reminders have been sent to private vets who provide certification before a live export can begin of the legal requirements.
- An AHVLA vet is present at inspections which take place on-farm when animals are loaded for transport.
- A further visual check is made at the port by AHVLA inspectors before the vehicle is allowed to board the ship and depart.
- The number of consignments which are inspected is dependent on the AHVLA’s assessment of risk, including past history. Currently AHVLA are inspecting at loading 100 per cent of consignments.