Ramsgate animal exports can’t be legally banned
PUBLISHED: 11:00 10 July 2011
Thanet District Council have been told by legal advisors that they have no legal way in which they can prevent the export of live animals from the port of Ramsgate
"The council strongly resisted using the port for this trade on moral grounds, but we are governed by the law."
There is no legal way of stopping the live animal exports from the Port of Ramsgate, according to Thanet District Council (TDC).
The statement comes after the town hall sought legal advice on whether it could prevent the trade.
The council opposes the exports of sheep and calves going through the port, which it owns and runs, but due to legislation, it has no standing to prevent them.
The advice received states that Ramsgate is an open port under national law and the council cannot rely on its local bye laws to contradict national or EU legislation, which governs free trade.
"It is crazy that we have no control over the port that we own and rate payers fund."
TDC has also been told it is “highly unlikely” the trade can be refused on the grounds that animals are “sentient beings” rather than goods, as “neither the UK government nor the EU has legislated to prevent the trade”.
The report concludes that, if the council banned live animal exports from Ramsgate, it “would be at risk of an application for judicial review and possibly at risk in relation to a claim in damages if losses are suffered”.
This would put TDC at risk of suffering a similar fate to Dover Harbour Board, which paid substantial undisclosed damages to live animal exporters after unsuccessfully attempting to block the trade in the 1990s.
Council leader Cllr Bob Bayford said: “We are very much aware of people’s feelings on this highly emotive issue and that many would prefer not to see the export of animals from Ramsgate.
“The council strongly resisted using the port for this trade on moral grounds, but we are governed by the law.
“As this legal advice shows, we don’t have the support of the law to prevent this trade.
“Where people have tried before to prevent this trade elsewhere, it’s ended up costing them dearly, with the organisations left facing huge claims for damages.
“I’m sure that some people would encourage us to take that risk, but we’re responsible for public money.
“We can’t risk what is potentially hundreds of thousands of pounds of council taxpayers’ money, without proper supporting legal advice and we simply don’t have that.
“We have consistently urged those opposed to this trade to take the issue up at a national or European level, rather than protest at the port, as the council has no control over this.
“The advice we’ve now been given backs that up.”
Labour group leader Cllr Clive Hart said: “If their opinion is factual, then we will step it up to the next level and lobby central government and the EU.
“It is crazy that we have no control over the port that we own and rate payers fund.”
The exports began in May this year and so far four shipments have gone through the port.
The animals have been destined for Europe and have crossed the Channel on a former Soviet tank carrier, the Joline, which is presently owner by Barco de Vapor BV of Amsterdam.
The next major protest planned against the animal exports is scheduled for Saturday, August 13, where a march is planned through the town.