The owner of a Kent port has lifted its temporary ban on live animal exports weeks before it faced a High Court challenge over its decision.
Thanet District Council, which owns the Port of Ramsgate, admitted that the basis on which it had imposed a temporary ban "could no longer be sustained".
The local authority faced a judicial review at the High Court from December 11 after transporters and owners of the ferry MV Joline challenged its decision to bring in the ban.
Last month a High Court injunction was served on the council which allowed live animal movements to resume until the outcome of the judicial review.
Legal advice received by the council since then indicated it would not be successful, and it decided to avoid costly proceedings by lifting its temporary ban.
District councillor Michelle Fenner said the authority was obliged to "protect the public purse" and that its "hand has again been forced" by its duty to act lawfully. She said it was "disappointing" but that they would continue to press to protect animal welfare amid calls from campaigners, including actress Joanna Lumley, to end the "abhorrent" trade.
The suspension of live animal exports by the council was introduced in September after 42 sheep which arrived at the port in a lorry unfit for transporting live animals had to be put down due to their lameness. A further two drowned and two suffered broken legs.
The deaths occurred after the RSPCA provided a report to the council in the summer highlighting the port's inadequate facilities and warning of severe problems with animals in an emergency.
A letter co-written by leading council members was then sent to Environment Secretary Owen Paterson making requests, including an urgent establishment of a livestock resting facility in Kent.
The local authority said the suspension would be lifted if suitable facilities could be built within the port and if it deemed it a priority compared with other issues.
Following the suspension at Ramsgate, the operation moved to Ipswich but the Suffolk port's owners also halted exports amid concerns about suitable facilities there.
Thanet District Council then received notice that it faced a judicial review over its decision to suspend exports at Ramsgate. On Thursday, the council called on the transporters to now drop their legal proceedings.