Campaign Against Live Animal Exports
Transporter's £19K Fine For Causing Unnecessary Suffering to Animals
We all remember the night that over 40 sheep were killed at Ramsgate’s port. It was a horrific tragedy that must never be allowed to happen again and I campaigned vigorously in the aftermath to ensure that DEFRA took robust action to ensure that it would not.
Those responsible for causing unnecessary suffering to animals have now been brought to court and one of the transporters along with his company Channel Livestock Ltd, was last week severely fined, being ordered to pay £19,000.
Like any crime, nothing can ever make right the wrong that was carried out but justice has been done and a very clear message has been sent to transporters involved in this barbaric trade. The law is unambiguous: the transporter is responsible for the welfare of the animals they are transporting.
Since the incident, many of the recommendations I made have been adopted by DEFRA including the requirements to properly inspect every consignment, to robustly enforce welfare procedures and to develop new emergency contingency measures.
Going forward I will be continuing to call for an end to this most terrible trade.
Sandys Welcomes Live Animal Exports Report - 100% inspections and tougher enforcement
4th March 2013
Within 24 hours of the slaughter of over 40 sheep at Ramsgate Port in September, Laura Sandys MP met with David Heath, Minister for Animal Welfare, to demand that the Government conduct an investigate into what went wrong – the subsequent report has finally been published this morning.
Following its publication Laura Sandys MP said, “I very much welcome this report, especially as it has adopted many on the recommendations I made to the Minister last September, including properly inspecting every consignment passing through Ramsgate, tougher enforcement of welfare procedures and developing new emergency contingency measures.”
“Of course, I will continue to closely monitor the situation at Ramsgate. While I am very happy to see DEFRA taking robust action, I will be making sure that procedural changes outlined in the report are properly implemented and enforced. I still want to see the live animal exports trade banned and I will continue to campaign hard on this issue in order to achieve that.”
Please find the Written Ministerial Statement on the report below:
WRITTEN MINISTERIAL STATEMENT
DEPARTMENT FOR ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS
AHVLA REPORT ON EVENTS ON 12th SEPTEMBER 2012
4 March 2013
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr David Heath):
Following the events at Ramsgate port on12 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, I asked the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) to review its operational procedures and the application of the EU rules on welfare during transport to livestock exporters to ensure that all was done to prevent such an incident happening again. The terms of reference of this report were to investigate the overall handling of the incident; the AHVLA’s procedures for managing inspections at Ramsgate and how they work alongside other bodies present at the port during inspections; and the contingency arrangements required by the transporter and any needed by AHVLA as the regulator.
As I informed the House on 13 December 2012 (Col 479 – Col 535), this report was withheld from publication at the request of Kent County Council Trading Standards while they completed their investigations and any possible prosecution action to avoid the possibility of prejudicing the outcome of these proceedings.
I am pleased that following the completion of their investigations, KCC Trading Standards have agreed that publication of the report can now go ahead. I am placing a copy of the report (suitably redacted only to remove information which could be used to identify individuals) in the House of Commons Library.AHVLA identified a number of procedural enhancements to its existing operational practice which it believed will ensure that there is no repeat of the regrettable events that took place at Ramsgate port on 12 September. These procedural changes are:
- Inspection of every consignment passing through Ramsgate;
- Tougher enforcement of welfare procedures;
- 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;
Live Animal Exports Debate in the House of Commons: My Speech
14th December 2012
Laura Sandys (South Thanet) (Con): I beg to move,
That this House has considered the matter of live animal exports and animal welfare.
It is a great pleasure to open this debate, which was requested by a cross-party group of Members. I want first to thank the Backbench Business Committee for granting us a debate on this extremely important issue. It is an extraordinary thing: Britain can have extreme pride when it comes to animal welfare—we have a strong sense of tradition. This is the country that passed the first piece of legislation on animal welfare—I believe it was in 1635—when we prohibited the pulling of wool off sheep and forbade the attaching of ploughs to horses’ tails.
That legislation was not only about animal welfare, but about more effective agriculture—I am concerned about how effective a plough drawn from the end of a horse’s tail would be. Even Cromwell decreed through parish rights that
“No Man shall exercise any Tyranny or Cruelty towards any brute Creature which are usually kept for man’s use.”
We should therefore be proud of our traditions and standards.
It was for that reason that when I became a Member of Parliament, I did not feel that this issue would concern me particularly. I felt we were leading the way—setting the standard. That was most certainly the case until live animal exports started from my local port in Ramsgate. As I started to see the trade first hand, I was extremely surprised that we in this country had so little power or control over the well-being of the animals bred here by UK farmers and exported to the continent.
The trade out of Ramsgate shows, for example, how many licensing regimes regulate the industry. The ship that takes the animals across from Ramsgate to France is licensed in Latvia, but was designed as a roll-on, roll-off vessel for river crossings in Russia, not for crossing the channel. The transport licence holder has a licence in Holland. The drivers of the lorries do not need licences at all, but they do need to hold certificates of competence, which can be granted in any country, including those with different animal welfare priorities. They do not have the same tradition as us or the same high standards.
The trade used to be out of Dover, but there was an issue with berths and some of the animal transport boats. Indeed, there was an issue before I entered this House whereby the ferry operators banned the trade on their ferries. As a result, a specific transportation mechanism was needed, but we are talking about a ship that is not equipped to go across the channel, despite our regulators saying that it is. It is equipped for fresh-water river crossings, not channel crossings in the middle of winter. We have already had a major crisis, when animals were taken halfway across the channel but had to return because the boat could not manage the seas.
Let me return to the drivers, the third element in all this. They do not need licences; they need certificates of competence. Certificates of competence can be granted in any country, with any set of standards, and would not necessarily meet the standards of competency in this country, which must reflect not only an ability to deal with animal welfare in a positive sense, but an ability to deal with animals in a crisis. I have seen major problems on my portside when people without the relevant competency have tried to deal with crises and emergencies.
Of course we have to meet EU standards, but others do not have to meet UK standards. When I went to see the commissioner in Brussels, he told me that he was keen for the rest of Europe to raise its welfare standards to match ours, but at the moment we are witnessing a race to the bottom. As a result, lowest common denominator standards are being applied to all the different licensing regimes in the different parts of the live animal export supply chain. Our farmers in this country are not lax about animal welfare. They take huge pride in maintaining standards, but once they start trading in the licensing regime, the EU standards apply. I have been contacted by many farmers who have been appalled by what is going on in my port.
Mr Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab): Is this not another example of the UK gold-plating regulations while the rest of Europe ignores them? Is the hon. Lady aware of moves in any other European countries to ensure that at least the minimum standards in the regulations are enforced?
Laura Sandys: That is an important point. The commissioner told me that one of his key priorities was to enforce the existing EU regulations across all of Europe, because there are quite a lot of inconsistencies. Despite my dislike of gold-plated EU regulations, I believe that, in this instance, it is the gold-plating that enables us proudly to maintain our tradition as a country that stands up for animal welfare across the board. However, we need to encourage the Minister of State to be much more forthright towards countries that adopt different standards.
Animal welfare can also be a cultural issue, with different countries having different cultural responses to the regulations. I hope other Members will agree that our Minister needs to be absolutely clear with countries that are pursuing the lowest possible level of animal welfare provision or that are not meeting the UK’s standards, which should represent the gold standard.
Mr Robert Buckland (South Swindon) (Con): On the point about enforcement, my hon. Friend might be aware that article 26.6 of European Council regulation No. 1/ 2005 gives member states the power temporarily to prohibit the use of transportation in the case of “repeated or serious infringements of this Regulation…even if the transporter or the means of transport is authorised by another Member State”.
Would she therefore acknowledge that a power exists within the regulation to take unilateral action?
Laura Sandys: I welcome my hon. Friend’s great knowledge of EU regulations. I will come to that point in a moment. It is crucial that the existing powers are aggressively exercised in this trade, and the first challenge that I shall throw to the Minister, which I am sure he will welcome, is that he should use his good offices and his political will to ensure that we raise standards right across Europe.
The second priority for me and my local residents is that we seek to ban live animal exports. The fact that there are few benefits to the trade is illustrated by the significant drop in the number of live animals being traded out. The problem is that our farmers are not being properly paid for the food they produce. My understanding, from talking to representatives of the National Farmers Union, is that this is a marginal trade undertaken by some farmers who can get a better price for their animals on the continent. It is crucial that farmers are properly paid for their work and for their investment in animals. We need to ensure that we are building the right levels of value into the food supply chain, and that we do not undercut certain stages of our food production.
We need to ensure that farmers are getting fair prices, but this trade is not the answer to the fundamental problem of the market not delivering good value to farmers. We need to address the problem comprehensively, and I know that it is the will of my constituents—and of many people around the country—that we should be seeking to impose a ban on live animal exports. There is no reason why farmers should not be able to get good value for their animals by exporting them after slaughter, rather than on the hoof.
I shall now come on to the third element about which I feel strongly as I represent the interests of my constituents. The first two themes are EU competences and EU legislation, where the Minister represents and reflects our concerns, but the third is about the UK as a competent authority. I appreciate the restrictions on DEFRA’s ability to act, but I sometimes feel that it can be a touch meek and mild, not using all the entry points it might have.
I welcome the Minister’s statement yesterday on tightening some of the regulations and enforcement, but I would like to see a lot more commitment in three key areas. The first relates to a “fit and proper operator”. We must clearly understand what infringements an operator must commit to stop being fit and proper. I have no understanding of that, but I am greatly concerned about the transporter that has received six warning notices from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. We have had major crises in the port side, with 47 animals being slaughtered. A ram that broke its horn had to be shot in the truck and was then pulled out. We do not have penning arrangements, yet we still have an operator that can receive licences. I would be interested to know whether DEFRA has contacted the Dutch authorities to express concern about the method used and the experiences that we have had to endure in Ramsgate.
I reiterate the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon (Mr Buckland) about the very strong powers. If we look at paragraph 6 of article 26 of the EU Council regulations, we find that there is an opportunity to
“temporarily prohibit the transporter or means of transport concerned with transporting animals on its territory”.
I hope that the Minister will be increasingly robust about that issue.
Two other smaller issues are crucial, the first of which is the cost of licensing. I was fascinated and staggered to find that there was no cost to a transportation licence. Someone applies and, if they have a certificate of competence, there are no related costs. I have run two small businesses and all I can say is that I had to pay every time health and safety turned up at my door to give me a certificate to be a fit and proper organisation. There are lots of costs in running an organisation. There is then the added cost to the taxpayer, which in this instance is for animal welfare inspections of the operations that the Minister is running through DEFRA. Why has that fully-loaded cost not been put on to the operator? Ultimately, as small businesses, we all pay for the regulatory regime to which we are subject.
It is crucial that we accept and tolerate only the very best transporters in the sector. I feel strongly about this trade generally, but we must ensure that operators take their responsibilities extremely seriously and that this trade is not being subsidised by all of us as taxpayers. In my constituency, where there is much more involvement, it is my local taxpayers who are paying for a lot of this, and I would like to see them refunded for the impact it is having on their bills.
I believe that we need to look clearly at what is going on in Europe and to raise standards in Europe, ensuring that we address some of the licensing regimes across Europe. Ultimately, I urge the Minister to use all the powers he has—they seem explicit and give him a lot of scope—to ensure that if we must have this transportation mechanism and live animal exports, we have the best in business.
Sandys Leads Live Animal Export Action Week
12th October 2012
This week in Parliament Laura Sandys MP is spearheading the campaign against live animal exports from Ramsgate Port by presenting a petition from Thanet to the Speaker and leading a debate in the Chamber. This is the culmination of the pressure that she has been putting on the Government to place much greater restrictions on the live animal trade from the Port of Ramsgate.
Laura Sandys, MP for South Thanet said, “Not only am I presenting a petition from the people of Thanet reflecting their disgust at the trade, but I have secured an historic debate on animal welfare – the first backbench debate on animal welfare in the Chamber in this Parliament.”
“I am fed up with a trade that has resulted in 50 animals being slaughtered on the portside at Ramsgate. While our long term objective is to ban live animal exports through the EU, my aim through this debate is to highlight where I believe animal welfare standards are not being enforced effectively enough. In the debate, I will be particularly focusing upon the following three issues:
· “Fit and Proper” Transporters: I need to get clarification on how many infringements an operator can commit before they are deemed neither fit nor proper to undertake this trade.
· Cost of Licensing: We do not charge enough for the cost of the licensing and the expense of the enforcement of this trade. License charges must reflect the fully loaded costs of the trade to the taxpayer.
· Lack of Facilities: In order to achieve the highest levels of animal care, a port without unloading pens or slaughter facilities is totally inappropriate for the trade, particularly if the port needs to manage crises that require emergency measures.
The Port of Ramsgate has had to tolerate this trade for two years, costing the Kent taxpayer a significant amount of money, without facilities appropriate for the trade. Clearly this has gone on far too long.”
Sandys Takes Action After Live Animal Exports Resume
22nd October 2012
After the awful news that live animal exports have resumed from the Port of Ramsgate Laura Sandys MP is once again taking strong action. In order to ensure that the views of local people are taken into consideration Laura has written to the Minister for Animal Welfare (which you can see below) to call for another meeting. She will be submitting a petition on the floor of the House of Commons calling for an immediate end to the trade and aiming to secure a debate on the matter in Parliament.
Laura Sandys, MP for South Thanet, said: “I was appalled to hear that live animal exports have once again started from the Port of Ramsgate. Thanet District Council’s court action, with support from the RSPCA, to defend their suspension of animal exports has unfortunately been overturned so I have taken swift action to try and reverse the decision to allow these transports. As I have outlined in my letter to the Minister, both Sir Roger Gale MP and I, as well as everyone in Thanet, expect the Government to be as committed to protecting animals as they are to protecting the European Single Market.
“Frankly I find it irresponsible that exports have been allowed to resume when no contingency plans have been put in place for unloading the sheep in the event of a crisis, as experienced on the 12th September. After the massacre of 47 sheep that occurred in the port only a few weeks ago I am very concerned that we are once again running the risk of a tragedy happening again. I will be reminding the Minister of this at our next meeting.
“Presenting a petition to the House of Commons and holding an Adjournment Debate on this subject will capture the attention of other MPs and the Government. We need to put a greater spotlight on this terrible trade to give us the best possible chance of defeating it. I would encourage everyone to visit my website and sign my petition as soon as possible. The more of us support this cause, the better!”
Laura Condemns Export of Fully Fleeced Sheep in Sweltering Temperatures
26th July 2012
One Year Anniversary of Live Exports from Ramsgate
Sandys: “Huge progress made, but still more to do.”
18th May 2012
- Travelling to Brussels to meet the Commissioner at the European Commission responsible for live export legislation to lobby for a change to transport times;
- New regulations mean businesses will soon be required to label meat with the country of origin, not merely country of slaughter. No longer will British born and bred animals be shipped to Greece and labelled as local produce. Consumers can make an informed choice over which meat they buy.
- Engaging in correspondence with the relevant Ministers, Rt Hon Jim Paice MP, Minister of State for Agriculture and Food and Mike Penning MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State to highlight what is happening at the Port of Ramsgate and to lobby for a reduction in transportation times for live animals;
- Lobbying Members of European Parliament and helping to secure 400 MEP signatures supporting an 8 hour limit on animal journey times. As a result, just two months ago, the European Parliament formally adopted a new position on live transportation journey times which calls on the European Commission to establish a maximum 8 hour journey limit for animals transported in the EU for the purpose of being slaughtered.
- Securing an adjournment debate in Parliament on live exports from the Port of Ramsgate;
- Meeting with the Minister of State for Agriculture and Food to discuss amending legislation in order to reduce the length of time for which livestock can be transported;
- Asking Parliamentary Questions about the issue to clarify the legal position of both Thanet District Council and Government;
- Regularly highlighting live exports at Ramsgate in local and national media;
- Speaking at local public meetings on live exports;
- Joining forces with Compassion in World Farming to run an anti-live exports campaign.
5th May 2012
Sandys welcomes EU’s Major Step Towards 8 Hour Limit on Live Transport
22nd March 2012
Laura Sandys welcomes the European Parliament’s new position calling for a limit on live animal transportation times. The European Parliament has formally called on the European Commission to establish a maximum 8 hour journey limit for animals transported in the EU for the purpose of being slaughtered.
Sandys presses for ban on livestock export trade amidst Schmallenberg virus fears
3rd March 2012
Laura Sandys, MP for South Thanet, is calling for a ban on the transportation of all livestock to and from the UK following the outbreak of Schmallenberg Virus. The virus appears to be spread through midges and so transporting animals back and forth across the Channel must increase the likelihood of these midges being carried on animals and spreading the disease.
Laura said: ‘We already have confirmed cases of Schmallenberg Virus in the UK and it has been found in France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency have said that the counties in the South-East of England are most are risk and whilst the virus does not appear to affect humans, I feel that there is a very strong need for us to mitigate the proliferation of the virus.
‘Yesterday, the Minister acknowledged that a year ago we had not even heard of this virus. There are so many unknowns at present; there is no treatment or preventative vaccine available, nor are we are clear on how the virus is being transmitted. We are also still researching the level of infection in and between groups and whether or not an animal with the virus will be permanently affected. With such uncertainty about how the infection could spread I am calling for all international transportation of live animals to cease immediately.’
Schmallenberg Virus (SBV) was detected in late summer last year and has been found to cause birth defects in cattle, sheep and goats as well as affecting the productivity of adult cattle.
Laura Sandys’ campaign to halt animal exports takes next steps in UK and Europe, working with Compassion in World Farming
27.01.12 - Laura and Sir Roger in Ramsgate collecting signatures for the Speaker’s Petition in Parliament
Laura Sandys, Member of Parliament for South Thanet, is now adding Europe to her sights in her campaign to halt animal exports out of Ramsgate. Laura’s campaign, working with Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), is taking a three-pronged approach: focusing on raising public awareness, presenting the public’s concerns in Parliament and visiting the Commission in Brussels to make our case with support from European pressure groups and MEPs.
Laura said: “Working with Compassion in World Farming, we will also be questioning the regulatory authorities in the Netherlands and Latvia where the licences for the trade and the vessel are held respectively.
“We are relentless in our efforts and I am publishing my next step approach so that all those who back us in this campaign can help us get as much support as possible.
Visiting Brussels to lobby key officials
We will be visiting Brussels soon to meet with the Commissioner and senior animal welfare officials in order to make the objections of the residents of Thanet and beyond heard. This trip will also include meetings with pan-European animal welfare groups coordinated by CIWF, and MEPs who share the objective of ending the export of live animals.
We will be asking Thanet District Council whether they could introduce a levy, as the council-owned Port of Portsmouth did when live export shipments were setting sail from their port. In addition I would like to ask the Council if there could be a night-time docking surcharge for the additional work and overtime pay that is needed to man the Port when embarkation is taking place at night.
We do not have a clear understanding of the costs of the policing of this trade. We will be getting the figures and also asking about the method and manner in which the protests are policed.
Cost of AHVLA inspections
We are continuing our campaign to encourage DEFRA to get the operators to pay for the cost of inspections and regulation. It seems absurd that reputable small businesses have to pay money for a whole range of inspections whilst a business that does not command any support from the public is let off without charge for the expensive inspection regime which the tax payer is currently left to cover.
We will also be asking DEFRA for information on how many points some of the transporters have incurred due to any infringement of their responsibilities to the animals.
Examining the Licences that regulate the trade and vessel
We are going to work with CIWF to be in touch with Dutch and Latvian authorities to raise our concerns about the licences issued to the operators transporting animals. In addition, we will be requesting that the relevant authority re-inspects the vessel licensed to transport the animals.
Petition to the Speaker of the House of Commons
We will also be gathering signatures for a petition that will be presented to the Speaker of the House of Commons in Parliament. I, along with my fellow Conservatives, will be gathering these signatures over the next few weeks across Thanet. The first high street event will be held this Saturday (28th January) on Ramsgate High Street from 10.30am-12.30pm. Sir Roger Gale and I will be there collecting signatures and all are welcome to come along and sign the petition.
Laura said “It is great to be working with Compassion in World Farming who have been running a very active ‘One Way Ticket’ campaign. I very much hope that by working closely together, we can bring an end to this inhumane trade.”
Last night I held an Adjournment debate in Parliament calling for an end to the barbaric trade of live exports.
You can watch the debate here at 07.45 minutes:
The debate was also covered on ITV's Meridian Tonight. You can watch the clip here:
Letter to constituents (Summer 2011):
In the past few months many Thanet residents have been greatly upset by the export of live animals through our port in Ramsgate. I am sure most people would agree with me when I say that we must do all we can to end this barbaric trade.
However, due to unbelievably inflexible European laws regarding the free movement of goods and people both Thanet District Council and the Government’s hands are tied on this issue. Unfortunately the European Commission has made it very clear that decisions regarding this matter should not be taken at national or local level.
Yet this does not mean that I have given up on the matter. I have been making representations to the very highest levels of Government:
- Asking Parliamentary Questions about the issue to clarify the legal position of both the Council and Government.
- Engaging in correspondence with the relevant Ministers, Rt Hon Jim Paige MP, Minister of State for Agriculture and Food and Mike Penning MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State to highlight what is happening at the Port of Ramsgate and to lobby for a reduction in transportation times for live animals.
- Writing to our ten Members of European Parliament to request that they take this salient issue to the very highest levels of the EU.
- I am currently seeking to secure a debate in Parliament on live exports from the Port of Ramsgate.
- I am also seeking a meeting at present with the Minister of State for Agriculture and Food to discuss amending legislation in order to reduce the length of time for which livestock can be transported.
I have uploaded below the responses I have received from the two senior Ministers with whom I have been corresponding. As you will note, the Minister of State for Agriculture and Food states that ‘the Government would prefer animals to be slaughtered as close as practicable to their point of production’. I am particularly following up this point as I believe the Government should be pushing this issue more firmly with the EU.