Published: 20:11, 17 November 2020
| Updated: 09:49, 18 November 2020
Fears have been expressed over the welfare of animals being transported on vehicles for more than eight hours coming into Kent amid Brexit congestion.
The Government is working with the Kent Resilience Forum (KRF) and Maidstone County Hall to prepare contingency plans for 'significant delays' on local roads impacting animal travel across the 13 county districts.
Emergency pens have been rented for 100 cattle and sheep at a farm close to J10 of the M20 near Ashford but more lairages - a place where livestock may be rested on the way to market or slaughter - may be required.
Steve Rock, the head of Kent County Council's (KCC) Trading Standards, the lead authority for animal health and welfare, said: "We do have concerns over the impact on the road system and particularly on animals in transit."
Cabinet minister Michael Gove has revealed there could be daily queues of up to 7,000 lorries heading to Dover and the Channel Tunnel, if hauliers are not ready for the end of the European Union transition period on December 31.
This includes carrying the right documentation and papers, such as the Kent Access Permit or a separate pass for local hauliers working in the county.
During a discussion by a panel county councillors and officers earlier today, Trading Standards described the potential road disruption as "a major concern."
A report published to KCC's communities committee last Thursday stated: "The main risk is cattle and sheep exceeding the eight-hour journey time, particularly when journeying to Ashford Market."
Each week, about 5,000 sheep and 500 cattle enter Ashford Market, the south east's largest livestock auction centre, to be sold.
They arrive from the South East and beyond, including Europe.
KCC is in the process of recruiting two extra animal health officers - taking the total to five - to cope with the various challenges, such as delays in getting treatments, feed, disinfectants, vet support and medical aid.
Recently, the potential impact of coronavirus restrictions on Kent farmers has also been raised as a concern.
Beef farmers have lost significant custom from restaurants and caterers, such as McDonalds, who normally buy thousands of cattle each day.
At the KCC meeting, Mr Rock added: "Delays in transport getting to the farms can cause issues.
"On the back of coronavirus we have seen difficulties in getting animals off the farms and vet medicines onto the farms. There is also the risk of disease control, but that is something we are very much aware of and are monitoring."
More Government cash is being sought for contingency planning in Kent, including the potential hiring of additional border staff to check unsafe goods.
KCC's Labour leader Dara Farrell said: “I am concerned that this might end up where we are with unaccompanied asylum seeking children where the tax-payers of Kent have had to fund the service on behalf of the entire country."
KCC cabinet member Mike Hill (Con) said: "We do not have complete clarity on the situation post-transition and there are undoubtedly going to be challenges ahead."
He said: "But Trading Standards have been working hard for a long time now to be ready for whatever situation arises after December 31.”