The RSPCA is to seek an oral hearing in the High Court to determine whether it can take its live animal exports judicial review application to a full hearing.

The animal welfare charity applied in December to seek a judicial review of the arrangements operated by Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) for the approval and supervision of live animal exports through the port of Ramsgate.

But permission to bring the case to a judicial review was refused last week by Mr Justice Males following a consideration of the court papers.

Currently, live animals are transported over to Calais on an open-decked, flat-bottomed converted Russian tank transporter, the MV Joline.

But the RSPCA claims the AHVLA is acting unlawfully in failing to require the exporters to use ports with appropriate facilities and also in failing to impose sailing restrictions on the MV Joline to ensure that animals are not injured or caused undue harm while being transported by sea.

A lack of facilities at or near the port to deal with emergencies, the use of an old tank transporter to ship animals across the Channel in rough weather and the failure to thoroughly inspect animals at the port are “all unacceptable” and have “serious issues for animal welfare”, it claims.

RSPCA chief legal officer Ray Goodfellow said: “We are taking this stand because we believe AHVLA’s approach is failing to safeguard animal welfare and is in breach of European laws designed to protect animals from injury or undue suffering during transport.

“We believe we have a strong case that deserves to be heard.”

The charity also believes that changes to the inspection regime introduced by the AHVLA following the September incident are also unlawful in failing to provide proper checks at the port to safeguard animal welfare.

The RSPCA has vowed to fight on for the animals after Thanet District Council lifted its temporary ban on live exports at Ramsgate in November.

The local authority had closed Ramsgate port to live exports in September following an incident when more than 40 sheep had to be destroyed. But the port was reopened in October after legal action by Dutch exporters.

The AHVLA said it would not be commenting on the case while there was still an option for the RSPCA to appeal.

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