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AHVLA Report

Volume 559: debated on Monday 4 March 2013

Following the events at Ramsgate port on12 September 2012, when a consignment of 540 sheep were unloaded at the port which resulted in three sheep drowning and more than 40 more having to be humanely killed, I asked the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) to review its operational procedures and the application of the EU rules on welfare during transport to livestock exporters to ensure that all was done to prevent such an incident happening again. The terms of reference of this report were to investigate the overall handling of the incident; the AHVLA’s procedures for managing inspections at Ramsgate and how they work alongside other bodies present at the port during inspections; and the contingency arrangements required by the transporter and any needed by AHVLA as the regulator.

As I informed the House on 13 December 2012, Official Report, columns 479-535, this report was withheld from publication at the request of Kent county council trading standards while they completed their investigations and any possible prosecution action to avoid the possibility of prejudicing the outcome of these proceedings.

I am pleased that following the completion of their investigations, KCC trading standards have agreed that publication of the report can now go ahead. I am placing a copy of the report (suitably redacted only to remove information which could be used to identify individuals) in the House of Commons Library. AHVLA identified a number of procedural enhancements to its existing operational practice which it believed will ensure that there is no repeat of the regrettable events that took place at Ramsgate port on 12 September. These procedural changes are:

Inspection of every consignment passing through Ramsgate;

Tougher enforcement of welfare procedures;

AHVLA implementing its own contingency plans in the event of an emergency if the transporter is unwilling or unable to implement their own plans within two hours;

Improved procedures to ensure an AHVLA vet is always within an hour of the port to assist AHVLA inspectors in the event of an emergency or welfare concern;

Working with the operator of the transport vessel to develop new contingency measures in the event of an emergency;

Restricting changes that the transporter can make to the journey log of the delivery prior to the export. This will help maintain clear records of the animals during the journey.

Kent county council have commenced criminal proceedings against a number of defendants; their first court appearance is scheduled for Tuesday 2 April 2013 at 10.30 hrs at Canterbury Magistrates Court. Offences under “The Welfare of Transport (England) Order 2006” of loading sheep which were unfit to travel and of transporting them in an inappropriate vehicle have been alleged contrary to articles 5 and 9 of the order. These offences are summary only and are punishable by six months’ imprisonment and/or a £5,000 fine.