The High Court has granted the RSPCA an oral hearing for its legal challenge to ban live animal exports from Ramsgate port.

The hearing will be held in open court at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on 10 May.

Last month, a judge refused the RSPCA permission to bring the case to a judicial review following consideration of court papers.

But the charity appealed the decision and learned this week it had won the right to an oral hearing, which could result in a full judicial review.

RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant said: “We remain confident in the strength of our case and that we can persuade the court to grant permission for a full hearing.

“Our challenge to the legality of the arrangements which Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) have put in place to regulate this trade deserves to be heard at a full hearing as the implications for animal welfare are very serious.”

The RSPCA believes the AHVLA, which is responsible for checking consignments of live animals through Ramsgate port, is “acting illegally”.

“Our challenge to the legality of the arrangements which Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) have put in place to regulate this trade deserves to be heard at a full hearing as the implications for animal welfare are very serious.”
Gavin Grant, RSPCA

The charity has accused the AHVLA of failing to impose sailing restrictions on the MV Joline – which it described as an “open-decked, flat-bottomed converted Russian tank transporter” – to ensure that animals were “not injured or caused undue harm while being transported by sea”.

The RSPCA has established a fighting fund to help pay for the legal costs for the case. The fund has received over £160,000 in donations to date.

The AHVLA said it would not be commenting on the case while legal proceedings were still active. In December, farm minister David Heath announced new, tougher rules for live animal exports from Ramsgate port. AHVLA inspectors have been told to increase inspections and take a “zero tolerance” approach to any breaches of welfare regulations where unnecessary suffering is caused to animals.

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RSPCA legal bid to ban live exports from Ramsgate quashed