Ministerial report into Ramsgate

A ministerial report into the incident at Ramsgate port last September, which led to the death of more than 40 sheep, has been published.

The report identified a number of enhancements to ensure no such incident occurs again. These changes include inspection of every consignment passing through Ramsgate and tougher enforcement of welfare procedures.

The report further stated that Ramsgate must implement contingency plans in the event of an emergency, ensure that an Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) vet is within a one-hour radius, develop new contingency measures, and restrict changes that the transporter can make to the journey log.

This followed farming minister David Heath requesting the AHVLA to review its procedures and compliance with EU rules regarding transport of livestock, etc. to prevent such an incident in the future.

The RSPCA has been accused of interfering with government work on that particular day, although having no official role at the port.

The animal rights group claimed the main report contained "no references to the RSPCA", but agreed that there were references to it in the timeline appendix provided.

One such incident occurred when RSPCA inspectors objected to the suggestion of euthanising an injured sheep in front of other animals.

The RSPCA pointed to a paragraph in the report that stated: "It was becoming apparent to AHVLA inspectors that the driver and the attendant had made no progress towards implementing their own contingency plans. It was the view of AHVLA inspectors that this was predominantly because neither driver understood nor spoke any English. AHVLA therefore decided to implement its own contingency arrangements."

Defending its involvement, the RSPCA claimed AHVLA inspectors made all the major decisions.

The incident arose when a lorry loaded with 540 sheep was declared unfit for travel, due to vehicle faults, and the sheep had to be unloaded and wait for another lorry to arrive. More than 40 sheep died and, after an area used to store the sheep at the port collapsed, six fell in the water and three drowned.