The High Court has ordered the port of Ramsgate to lift a ban on livestock exports from the UK to continental Europe.

A High Court injunction means the port must remain open to the trade pending a judicial review into the council’s decision to suspend animal movements last month.

Sailings are expected to recommence later this week in a move welcomed by farmers who are preparing to supply thousands of sheep to France for the Muslim festival of Eid.

Thanet District Council banned animal movements through the port following an incident last month during which more than 40 sheep were slaughtered.

The local authority was served with legal proceedings on Friday 5 October. It is understood that the legal challenge is also seeking damages for a breach of European law.

Thanet District Council said it would mount a “vigorous defence” of its action.

Council leader Clive Hart said a lack of facilities meant it was inappropriate to export livestock from the port of Ramsgate.

Councillor Hart said: “This is something we had been explaining to government agencies consistently for many months previously.”

The NFU has submitted more than 150 separate questions to a DEFRA inquiry into the Ramsgate sheep incident.

NFU livestock chairman Charles Sercombe said the union was committed to the permanent reinstatement of the livestock export trade, which was a legal activity.

“We have asked many questions,” said Mr Sercombe. “We are awaiting the results of the inquiry. We have sent a letter detailing 152 questions that we want answers to.”

The RSPCA, which opposes the live export trade, said it would make its inspectors available to monitor the situation at Ramsgate and to offer assistance with any animal welfare issues.

RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant said: “This is a black day for all who love animals and care about them.

“This ruling has put profit above animal welfare. This vile trade will deliver tens of thousands of sheep to their awful fate.

“We will redouble our efforts to protect these animals welfare and end this trade from Ramsgate when the judicial review is heard.”

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