1 March 2002

Irish sheep delays criticised

ANIMAL welfare group Compassion in World Farming has condemned the delays in unloading a cargo of sheep exported live from Eire to France.

The 274 animals involved were assembled at lairage near Dublin two-and-a-half weeks ago and sent by road to Belfast.

There they were loaded on to the MV Kalifeh, run by Richard Otleys Livestock Shipping and Services, before making the three-day sea crossing to Le Treport in northern France.

Reason for refusal

Following their arrival on Saturday (Feb 16), problems arose because the French authorities refused permission for the ship to unload because they had not received the necessary "animo messages" from the Irish department of agriculture, giving the required 48 hours pre-notice of a shipment.

Continued delays in sorting out the paperwork and problems with the wrong ear tag numbers meant that, 11 days later – as FW went to Press on Wednesday (Feb 27) – the sheep still had not left the vessel.

"This incident highlights again how live exports can cause unnecessary suffering to animals," said CIWF-Ireland campaigns manager Richard Hardy. "We are is calling on agriculture minister Joe Walsh to adopt a major change of policy, whereby the long distance transport of farm animals is replaced by a trade in meat."

A spokesman for the Irish government blamed the French. "While the discrepancies in the veterinary certification were corrected a week ago, the authorities at local level have refused to grant access to the animals, even for slaughter at an abattoir in the locality."

Within rights

But Mr Otley said: "The French are quite within their rights to stick to the protocol and reject the animals, especially in the light of last years foot-and-mouth experiences."

Meanwhile, the Irish department is in negotiation with exporter Michael Kerwin to take ownership of the sheep in question. "I am looking for k122/animal (£74), but so far nothing has been agreed on paper," Mr Kerwin told FW.

As FW went to Press, it was still not clear what would happen to the sheep, though the most likely outcome is that they will be shipped back to Waterford in the Irish Republic. "Our vessel is fuelled up and ready to go," said Mr Otley.

He is adamant the sheep have not suffered. "The 274 animals are on a vessel designed for 3000-4000 sheep. They are on an open vent top deck and are fed and watered every day. They are actually putting on weight."

Mr Otley said the incident was "unfortunate" given that live exporting is just getting going again following F&M, but denied either the exporter or the shipper had done anything wrong.

He further claims the Irish government has offered him £25,000 to cover demurrage charges and to make the return crossing to Ireland. &#42

Philip Clarke

Europe editor