26 April 1996

Inquiry after 8500 sheep go missing

MAFF is investigating the disappearance of hundreds of British sheep which failed to reach their expected destination after leaving for France on the last shipment of live exports from Dover.

Officials are liaising with French colleagues, who believe the sheep may have ended up with unlicensed Muslim slaughterers for their Eid-el-Kebir ceremony this weekend to mark the end of Ramadan.

Prosecutions of hauliers will take place if travel document records – due to reach the ministry by the end of this month – are either not submitted or do not tally with pre-journey details.

Five of the 28 lorries carrying a total of 8500 sheep, which left the UK for Boulogne on Mar 28, never reached their declared French destinations.

UK ear-tags matching those with some of the missing sheep have been traced back to markets in Paris. RSPCA inspectors found others at a site in Montreuil, which was not listed on travel documents.

The annual Muslim ceremony has come under renewed criticism this year. EU farm commissioner Franz Fischler has ordered an investigation to see if the ritual slaughter ceremony, which involves up to 60,000 sheep, breaks EU rules.

Although the French government has set up official slaughter sites for the ceremony, many clandestine slaughter ceremonies are expected to take place.

CIWF said the investigations showed the failure of the transport documentation legislation, which was brought in by the government in 1994. &#42

The short-term future of live animal shipments looks bleak because the world ban on the export of British calves has made it financially unviable to continue live exports.