Former Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver, has expressed “incredulity” at the scale of a £2.3 million compensation payment made by Thanet District Council to companies exporting sheep for ritual slaughter in Europe via the municipally owned Port of Ramsgate (1). He said the compensation, plus a further £272,000 legal costs to the exporters(2), amounted to the payment of “blood money to convicted animal welfare abusers.Live animal exports from the port of Ramsgate began in May 2011. They take place in the face of strong local opposition and regular port-gate demonstrations organised by local animal welfare campaigners including Driver. The campaign against what Driver describes as “a barbarically cruel medieval trade”, is supported by the RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming.
The compensation payment was ordered by the High Court in February 2013, after Thanet Council suspended sheep exports from Ramsgate.
The suspension followed injuries caused to many of the sheep during transport to the port on 12 September 2012. As a result 47 animals were destroyed on the quayside (3 ). The High Court ruled that, by imposing the suspension, Thanet Council had acted in breach of section 35 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) which states that “Quantitative restrictions on exports, and all measures having equivalent effect, shall be prohibited between Member States” (4 ).
After protracted negotiations a confidential compensation agreement was reached between the council and the exporters. The scale of the compensation payment was only made public last week after Driver used powers under the Audit Act 1998 to question the council about its spending during the 2014-15 financial year(5).
The company responsible for the transportation of the sheep to Ramsgate on the 12 September 2012 was Channel Livestock Limited. Its director is Thomas Lomas. At a hearing at Dover Magistrates Court on 13 February 2014, Lomas was handed down a six month suspended gaol sentence and ordered to pay £5,000 costs and his company was fined £4,000 and ordered to pay £10,000 costs for breaches of animal welfare regulations(6).
|Sheep destroyed at Ramsgate Port|
The owner of the Latvian registered ferry, Joline, which is used to transport the sheep from Ramsgate to Calais, Johannes Onderwater, a Dutch national, also has a record of animal related criminality. He and his company, Onderwater Agneaux BV, were convicted at Canterbury Crown Court on 10 August 2010 for smuggling live animals via public ferry services from Dover to Europe by deliberately mis-describing the contents of his lorries as seafood, frozen or boxed meat. The court handed down a fine of £6,000 and costs of £3,675 for these offences (7 ).
Said Driver, “I’m staggered that companies with convictions and fines for animal related criminality are able to claim £millions in compensation from a public authority which acted in good faith to protect the welfare of the animals passing through its port. I believe that the UK Government, UK Euro MPs, & Commissioners along with the RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming should be lobbying hard to amend section 35 of the TFEU to allow member state opt outs from the article on the basis of animal welfare or other ethical considerations. The article as it currently stands is a charter for industrial scale cruelty towards sentient beings which in the name of humanity and compassion must be ended.
2. Email from Ian Driver to Thanet Council Finance Officer 7 August 2015 - please tell me … Any legal and associated costs related to item 1 above, including any payment towards the legal and related costs of the company (or companies) who conduct the export of live animals from the port of Ramsgate arising from the Council’s temporary suspension of that trade.
Response On point 2, £12,025 were TDC costs and the balance of £280,000 were the related costs. Regards Matt. Matthew Sanham, Corporate Finance Manager, Thanet District Council
7.See Hansard 1 December 2011 Statement by Minister of Food and Rural Affairs