A packed public meeting on a rainy Friday evening in Ramsgate; no-one could have any doubt at the strength of feeling against the live animal export trade now going through the town’s port.
The meeting was opened by an impassioned speech from local councillor, Ian Driver, who took the initiative and called this meeting. Local people mingled with stalwart campaigners; veterans of past battles against live exports in Shoreham and Brightlingsea. The RSPCA were joined on the platform by, amongst others, leading members of the dedicated team from Kent Against Live Exports (KALE). It was a privilege to be part of the meeting; and to see so many people speaking out against a trade in live animals that is outdated, unnecessary and causes so much suffering to animals.
Before the meeting, I spoke to Meridian TV News; they had been busy getting sound-bites from local people in Ramsgate about live exports. They told me that finding someone in favour of it had been difficult; testimony to the overwhelming opinion against the trade locally.
Like so many of us, the campaign against long distance animal transport has been part of my life for decades. It’s a chapter I would rather see closed. It was one of the major issues that motivated Compassion’s founder, Peter Roberts. The campaign has brought together people from all walks of life. Together, we’ve had huge impact; at its height in the early-1990s, two million sheep and 500,000 calves were being exported live from Britain to continental Europe; staggering numbers. Last year, that figure was down to 4,000 sheep; the calf trade ceased all together.
What is deeply concerning is that Ramsgate is now hosting a resurgence of the live export trade; a trade that is both inhumane and unnecessary. Only this month, 2 consignments of British calves went from Ramsgate. These calves will often be reared in veal systems that would be illegal in the UK. There is also a major calf trade from Northern Ireland with 7,000 animals this year having gone to Spain and Hungary.
Many of the sheep will be going for slaughter. It simply cannot be right to transport animals over long distances simply to be slaughtered at the journey’s end. This problem is not confined to British live exports. Our recent investigation in Europe pointed to the kind of conditions these animals are often forced to endure; transported in overcrowded and filthy conditions, legs sticking out of the lorries and journeys lasting up to 23 hours long.
You can help. If you haven’t already, please sign the 8-hours petition. Please write urgently to your MEPs calling for European action to end the long distance transport trade and impose a total maximum journey time of 8 hours for animals travelling for slaughter or fattening. It is great to see that Peter Skinner MEP is supporting the campaign. If you live in the Ramsgate area, please write to your local councillors and MPs calling for urgent action. We are putting together an action pack to help you do just that. I will post it very soon. Thank you for helping make live animal exports a thing of the past.