21 April 1995

Decks cleared for live exports again in Dover

By Shelley Wright

LIVE exports from Dover were set to resume yesterday following the High Courts order to the harbour board to lift its ban on the trade.

Ruling on three separate cases brought against the Dover board and Plymouth and Coventry City Councils, Lord Justice Brown said last week that none of the three had any right to refuse to handle, or seek to stop, a lawful trade.

Exporter Peter Gilder, who took the action against Dover, now plans to operate a daily crossing from Dover to Dunkirk – a journey of two and a quarter hours. The service was due to start yesterday (Thursday) using a chartered ferry, Cap Cannile. He hopes to increase the service to two sailings a day, each carrying up to 30 stock lorries.

Victory for industry

Mr Gilder called the High Court ruling a victory for the whole industry. And he acknowledged the support he had from farmers, the NFU, and the Farmers Union of Wales in pursuing his case. Dover offered the shortest sea journey to the Continent, which made it the most welfare-friendly route, he added.

Mr Gilder insisted his boat would not be available to any haulier who broke MAFFs rules on journey times and conditions. All animals, regardless of origin, would be rested for a minimum of eight hours at Dover before crossing the Channel, he said.

But the High Court ruling has hardened the resolve of the protestors. Compassion in World Farming and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have both said that they will continue their fight to end the live export trade.

The RSPCA is considering legal action against the government if farm minister William Waldegrave continues to refuse to take unilateral action to ban the export of veal calves from this country. Mr Waldegrave has said that his legal advice indicates that such action would leave the UK open to challenge under European law. But the RSPCA and CIWF, having also sought legal opinion, insist this is untrue.

With huge protests anticipated at Dover, police elsewhere are starting to crack down on demonstrators. At Brightlingsea on Tuesday, police arrested 12 people who ignored warnings and continued to block the path of three lorries trying to take in sheep.

The major ferry companies operating out of Dover are not affected by the judgement. They will continue to refuse to carry livestock for further fattening or slaughter.