Published: 14:00, 12 September 2012
| Updated: 14:25, 12 September 2012
Sheep peer through bars of a lorry from which dozens died. Picture: Mike Pett
The Port of Ramsgate has suspended live animal exports with immediate effect after dozens of sheep died in chaotic scenes yesterday.
The temporary suspension comes after the agriculture minister this afternoon promised to carry out a full investigation following the death of 45 sheep.
RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant and South Thanet MP Laura Sandys met David Heath today after the "disgusting massacre" yesterday.
Mr Grant said: "The minister has agreed to carry out a full investigation and support any prosecution and agrees with us that there should be zero tolerance of animal welfare abuse at the port. Yesterday, without doubt, animals suffered."
Two French lorry drivers were arrested after a lorry was declared unfit to travel across the Channel.
Two sheep, one with a broken leg, were put down. Another 41 sheep are being shot as a vet found them to be severely lame.
In a further tragedy, sheep were loaded into an area where the floor then collapsed - six sheep fell into the water and four were rescued by nearby RSPCA officers, but two drowned.
The truckers - men aged 55 and 25 - have now been released on bail until next month after being arrested on suspicion of animal cruelty.
Sheep from a lorry deemed unfit to travel at Ramsgate Port. Picture: Mike Pett
Thanet District Council said the removal of the ban will depend on the construction of new facilities at the port.
Leader Cllr Clive Hart said: "Thanet District Council recognises that live exports are a lawful trade, but we are also conscious of our responsibilities regarding the welfare of animals passing through our port.
"We are saddened to see animals arrive at our Port in this condition and it underlines the need to implement EU regulations strictly in order to avoid any suffering caused to the animals.”
South Thanet MP Laura Sandys said: "We will be calling absolutely aggressively now for a ban on this trade. This is against animal welfare. These animals have now had to be destroyed.
"It is a disgusting massacre that has happened due to a trade that should not be happening."
RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant said: "This trade needs to stop right now. We told the port authorities right from the start that they did not have the facilities to handle live exports safely.
"The RSPCA has been warning that a significant welfare incident like this could lead to tragedy for the animals and now it has.
"Early this summer we sent a report to the local authority warning that this would happen."
The lorry was found to have faults and the sheep were unloaded to a holding pen while an alternative truck was found.
It was the same lorry that was declared unfit to travel just last month. The truck has had two further failures at previous visits.
Thanet council wants live exports suspended at the Port of Ramsgate
Ramsgate is the only British port used for shipping live animals abroad.
Just days ago, Thanet District Council wrote to the government urging it to suspend live exports from the port until a resting facility for the animals can be built.