The Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) had previously celebrated after the trade was suspended from Ramsgate port, the only port in the UK being used for live export.
However, the RSPCA has expressed its anger after learning that live sheep exports are now taking place at the Port of Ipswich, with the charity branding the practice a “vile trade” and accusing industry of “sneaking through the back door”.
The trade through Ramsgate was suspended after an incident in which 45 sheep died following the stopping of a French transport lorry. A full investigation into the incident has been ordered by the UK government, with findings expected later this week.
Gavin Grant, RSPCA chief executive, said: “I, like my colleagues, and all those who fight for the animals, breathed a sigh of relief last week when we heard that there had been a suspension of this awful trade at Ramsgate.
“But now we feel somewhat cheated and bitterly disappointed that this vile trade has just been shifted through the back door and is trying to carry on at a different port.”
Peter Garbutt, chief livestock advisor at the UK’s National Farmers’ Union (NFU), said: “Safeguarding the welfare of their animals during transport must be a top priority for hauliers and the NFU has long called for the current controls to be rigorously enforced across the EU.
“Moving live animals throughout Europe is a legitimate and lawful activity and subject to comprehensive legislative controls. Vehicles used for such journeys must approved by the authorities, drivers must pass tests to transport animals on longer journeys, and all animals travelling out of GB must be approved by a vet before travel.”
Commenting on the Ramsgate incident, he added: “It is clear that the circumstances around this incident should be fully investigated, including why these animals were unloaded without appropriate handling facilities. We welcome a discussion with interested parties with a view to improving facilities at the port and in Kent for the safe and high welfare transport of animals.”