The RSPCA has expressed its disappointment after a High Court judge rejected its legal bid to stop the live export of animals from a Kent port.
The animal welfare charity lodged a claim in the High Court to seek a judicial review of the approval and supervision of live animal exports through Ramsgate port.
The RSPCA launched the legal challenge after Thanet District Council lifted its temporary ban on live exports at Ramsgate following an incident on the vessel MV Joline in September in which more than 40 sheep, considered by officials as lame, were put down.
Launching the legal proceedings last month, the RSPCA said it believed the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA), which is responsible for checking consignments of live animals through Ramsgate port, was “acting illegally”.
The RSPCA 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”.
It also accused the AHVLA of failing to require exporters to use ports with appropriate facilities and failing to provide proper checks at the port to safeguard animal welfare.
But in a High Court ruling on Tuesday (5 February), judge Mr Justice Stephen Males dismissed the RSPCA’s case on all three grounds and said it was not even arguable.
Commenting on the ruling, an RSPCA spokesman said: “We are extremely disappointed by the decision. We still have an opportunity to ask for a reconsideration of the decision at an oral hearing.
“We will be considering the options with our legal team and also consulting with our trustees. Our deep concern about the lack of appropriate regulatory safeguards to protect the welfare of animals involved in this trade remains unchanged.”
The AHVLA said it would not be commenting on the case while there was still an option for the RSPCA to appeal.
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.