The legal fight to ban live animal exports through the port of Ramsgate in Kent was abandoned today in a move that's shocked and dismayed animal welfare campaigners.
In its campaign to halt the trade, Thanet District Council has run up a legal bill of several thousand pounds to be footed by local taxpayers.
They've thrown in the towel after taking legal advice 12 days ahead of a High Court challenge that could have pushed legal costs far higher.
Ramsgate is the only British port handling live exports. Tonight one of the region's biggest sheep farmers said the climbdown was a 'victory for common sense'.
Tom Savvides has more and speaks to Cllr Ian Driver, campaigner Michele Parry and Frank Langrish from the NFU.
The owner of a port in Kent has abandoned its legal fight to stop live animal exports.
Thanet Council, which owns the Port of Ramsgate, says the basis on which it imposed a temporary ban "can no longer be sustained".
The move comes weeks before it faced a High Court challenge over the issue. Here's Tom Savvides with the latest news from the port, speaking to Cllr Ian Driver.
The NFU chief livestock adviser has said that he is reassured by Thanet Council's decision today to abandon its ban on live exports from Ramsgate.
– Peter Garbutt, NFU chief livestock adviser
The NFU has consistently said that moving live animals throughout Europe is a legitimate and lawful activity and it is reassuring that these latest developments bear this out.
Most farm animals are transported at some stage during their lives for breeding purposes or for further rearing. The issue is that these animals are transported under the right conditions in order that they arrive at their destination fit and healthy. Journeys over eight hours or between EU member states make up a very small but important minority of all movements and these take place using specially designed vehicles.
Romney Marsh sheep farmer and National Farmers Union representative, Frank Langrish, has welcomed the decision by Thanet Council to drop its ban on live animal exports from Ramsgate.
– Frank Langrish, farmer
I'm pleased by the decision and we now await the report looking into why those sheep had to be killed in Ramsgate in September. We now have an opportunity to look at the shortest possible route when ferrying these animals."
Thanet Council said the decision to lift its temporary ban on live animal exports was partly taken because of soaring cost of legal fees.
– Cllr Michelle Fenner, Thanet Council
Our position has always been to work within the legal framework to ensure the welfare of animals. The decision to impose the temporary ban at the Port was not taken lightly, following the horrific incidents in September, and we still consider this action to have been correct.
In terms of now having to lift the ban, our hand has again been forced as we are duty bound to act in accordance with the law. We have to consider our absolute obligation to protect the public purse."
– Cllr Michelle Fenner, Thanet Council
As we’ve done everything in our power to get to this point, it is disappointing, however we have worked extremely hard in recent months and will continue to push the agencies involved in whatever legal way we can to ensure that the welfare of animals is protected.“
Thanet Council has announced that it has lifted its temporary ban on live animal exports through the Port of Ramsgate with immediate effect.
It says it will continue to pursue other avenues to stop the trade but has had to consider the high cost of continuing legal action.
A High Court hearing had been scheduled to take place on December 11 after exporters sought a judicial review into the council's decision to impose a temporary ban.
The council’s decision also follows news that Defra has been undertaking a review into an incident at the port in September in which more than 40 animals had to be slaughtered.
Thanet Council has announced that following legal advice it has lifted its temporary ban on the movement of live animal exports through the Port of Ramsgate.