26 April 2015 | Online since 2003

RSPCA has questions to answer over Ramsgate, says NFU

The publication of a report into the incidents that led to the deaths of over 40 sheep last year still leaves unanswered questions, the NFU said today.

On 12 September 2012, when a consignment of 540 sheep were unloaded at the port which resulted in three sheep drowning and more than forty more having to be humanely killed, Farming Minister David Heath asked the AHVLA to review its operational procedures.

"We have been calling for this report to be released since the events in September, having sent over 150 questions to AHVLA which we believed needed to be addressed" said NFU Deputy President Meurig Raymond.

"The report gives an insight into the events of that day but still leaves many questions to be answered, by both AHVLA and the RSPCA, who it appears exerted significant influence over government officials on the ground."

Welfare checks on the Ramsgate animals last year revealed a lorry load of sheep with no drinking water.

RSPCA inspectors joined staff from Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) on the docks and inspections revealed a faulty pump meaning hundreds of sheep had no access to drinking water – a basic legal requirement.

Dr Julia Wrathall, head of the RSPCA’s farm animals science team, said: "Drinking water is one of the essential basics that sheep, or any animals, need during a journey which potentially can be long and hot.

"This breach of welfare rules highlights the need for better enforcement across Europe and a maximum eight hour journey time to help reduce the risk of animals suffering unnecessarily during transportation.”

After the review of procedures, AHVLA identified a number of enhancements to its operational practices. Some of the changes included an inspection of every consignment passing through Ramsgate; tougher enforcement of welfare procedures and ensuring a vet is always within an hour of the port to assist inspectors in the event of an emergency.

Raymond said: "It is highly concerning that, although the RSPCA has no official role at the port, from an early stage, they were making objections to agreed contingency plans, making interventions from their legal team and, within an hour of a problem being found, they had “instructed” AHVLA officers to unload animals at the port, despite RPSCA previously highlighting the lack of suitable facilities for handling animals."

"The NFU also still has questions about why the method of slaughter used by the RSPCA officers resulted in so much blood in the photographs that were taken and released to the media by the RSPCA.

"We cannot understand how the method of slaughter referred to in the report resulted in the blood patterns seen in the photographs.

"Not only that, but from the photographic evidence, it appears that the sheep were slaughtered together in a pen, in front of each other.

"That was after the RSPCA had objected to AHVLA’s original plan of euthanising one injured sheep on the transporter, and then sending the transporter on to a local facility in line with the agreed contingency plans, on the basis that the RSPCA felt it wasn’t appropriate to carry this out in front of the other animals.

The charity applied in December to seek a judicial review of the arrangements operated by AHVLA for the approval and supervision of live animal exports through the port of Ramsgate.

The permission was refused by Mr Justice Males following a consideration of the court papers.

Thanet District Council lifted its temporary ban on live exports at Ramsgate in November.

The animals are transported over to Calais on an open-decked, flat bottomed converted Russian tank transporter, the MV Joline.

The local authority had closed the port, which has no livestock handling facilities, to live exports in September following an incident when over 40 sheep had to be destroyed.

The port was then re-opened in October following legal action by Dutch exporters.

Raymond continued: "We cannot understand why the RSPCA published the photographs of the event and sought to make so much of the incident in the media, given the catalogue of delay and indecision identified in the report, the very clear influence of the RSPCA in the decision making process, and the fact that it was the RSPCA’s officers that slaughtered the sheep.

"We call upon the RSPCA to clarify what role their ‘inspectors’ at the port are there to fulfil.

"We now need to fully digest the report and we remain committed to working with Defra and AHVLA to ensure that British livestock can be traded freely but that both the standards and the enforcement of animal transport activities in the UK are maintained to safeguard animal welfare.”



05-03-2013 11:40 AM | Posted by: Celia Upchurch
If animals have to be exported alive then surely it is paramount that their welfare is the best it can be. Not having seen the report except what is written above I am presuming that a captive bolt gun was not used to euthanase the sheep. Surely the most humane thing to have done would be to transport to the nearest abbatoir or if that was not possible then experienced slaughtermen should have been drafted in to dispatch the sheep properly. To dispatch animals within sight of each other is a despicable practice especially when carried out by persons who purport to care for animals.

05-03-2013 21:30 PM | Posted by: Ann Adley
I have read the report in detail and it shows quite clearly that neither the exporters or AHVLA had any contingency arrangements but lurched from one solution to another,all of which were detrimental to the welfare of the animals.
As the vehicle containing the sheep had been impounded by Trading Standards due to defects it obviously could not be used to transport the livestock anywhere,this was sated by the RSPCA and a DEFRA vet agreed with them.An alternative vehicle was eventually found, nine hours away,hence the delay.
It also states clearly that the sheep were not euthanised in sight of the rest of the flock,AVHLA state that they were humanely culled under their supervision by captive bolt gun and pithing rod.
Far from questions being asked of the RSPCA it would be more relevant to question AHVLA as to why their operations and contingency plans were so badly lacking.
As a result of this incident it should be noted that criminal prosecutions have been instigated by Kent Trading Standards against three hauliers and one Company for offences in contravention of the Welfare of Animals Act 2006,the accused will appear at Canterbury Magistrates Court on April 2nd.

06-03-2013 19:55 PM | Posted by: Mike Fry

Its the RSPCA that should be investigated by the police for wanton animal cruelty to those sheep, the RSPCAs actions were intentional compared to the unforseen accusations made against the hauliers ???????

07-03-2013 10:55 AM | Posted by: Ann Adley
The lorry that was stopped by AHVLA was recognised as a high risk vehicle as it had already had two warning notices issued previously as stated in the report.
The wanton cruelty to which you refer was the fact that animals not fit for travel (as stated by DEFRA vet) were transported in a lorry that was duly condemned by Trading Standards,no contingency plan in place for emergencies,sheep left at dockside for 14 hours while a replacement vehicle was made available,I could go on.
None of this was the responsibility of the RSPCA but that of the exporters and AHVLA,who both failed miserably to ensure that the welfare of the livestock was not compromised.
The report states that the AHVLA were happy to continue to use a lorry that was in serious disrepair which the RSPCA objected to and when the DEFRA vet arrived he agreed that they were correct to object.
The sheep could not be moved and euthanisation was the only option,as agreed by DEFRA,they state in their report that they were humanely culled under their supervision.
The report is quite clear and does raise questions,not of the RSPCA but of the AHVLA team that were at the port that day.

08-03-2013 09:14 AM | Posted by: sheep lover
This Ann should go and read the article on farmersguardian.co.uk I am wondering which report she has been reading. She doesn't get it. It has all been staged by the rspca in order to get publicity to get funds.
These sheep without water that is being referred to, where on that lorry for 1 hour. When checked at the port, the pump was red hot, so clearly it burned out. A new pump was installed immediately (as for contingency that is on board of the vessel) before the animals could go on board. Further : There destination was Holland and they made it to their destination within 14 hours. Legally you are required to give them water after 14 hours. So - what a fuss to put in the paper - sheep left without water. This is the way how the rspca get's on. Publishing have the story that makes animals transport look bad. Dirty!

08-03-2013 12:06 PM | Posted by: Ann Adley
The report that I refer to is from Defra 'at the bottom of the following link they give the timeline of events on the day.The exact times of arrival and departure of vehicles are listed.
I would advise you to read it as I have and,with due respect to Farmer Guardian articles,this report is from officials who were on the ground on the day:

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