Thanet Star

Stopping live exports from Ramsgate

The trade of live exports through Ramsgate bothers me deeply and most people would agree. Why, then, does it continue?

I cannot think of a single reason why the practice of live animal exports should continue. With so many other options for sourcing animals and animal products and a growing public appreciation for the suffering caused by such transport, the practice of live animal exports seems like a holdover from another age.

In case you have ben sleeping under a particularly large rock for the last thirty years, this is why live animal exports are so unpopular:

Warning: This shocking film is not for the faint of heart. Produced by Animals Australia, this video highlights the suffering that is part of the global trade in live animals.

Why can't we stop live animal exports?

Over 12,600 have "liked" the Facebook page Stop Live Exports From The Port of Ramsgate which is all well and good but what difference have all those clicks made? The cruel and unnecessary trade continues unabated.

Clicking "like" on Facebook might feel like action, and there is certain nothing wrong with it, but it is not the same as taking action. The likes on the Stop Live Exports From The Port of Ramsgate page represent a number of people equal to about 10% of Thanet's population (if that). That's hardly an indicator of legislative urgency to the powers that be.

With such an unpopular trade if banning live exports were an option, as an instant vote winner, it would have happened by now. You'd have to be a pretty foolish politician to look at the high number of "likes" on such pages and think it was not worth turning those into votes. So clearly there are other things stopping any one MP or councillor ending the trade in live animals from Ramsgate.

That thing is that the laws we have built in this country to protect our freedoms also protect the "right" of farmers to export their animals in this way. At all levels, politicians actually want to end this practice but a little thing called "the rule of law" and another thing called "fairness" is, strangely, in the way.

Although that sounds hopeless, there are still options open to those of us that care.

What can we do?

The simple fact of the matter is that this trade continues because people, somewhere, is making a good profit from live exports. Take those profits away and the trade will vanish.

This cuts to the heart of why live exports, despite being cruel, take place. Money - it makes the world go round. We need to take money out of the equation.

Demand laws that make a difference (even a small one)

Some of the rules and regulations surrounding farming are weak at best. Many of the standards we stamp on our food are only fractionally above the legal minimum. This weak legislation leaves all sorts of abuses, not just live exports, as hugely profitable and attractive options.

Live exports do not seem that bad from an industry perspective because pretty much every type of food we produce involving animals often has a version that involves intolerable suffering. Sometimes that is the only model available.

It's hard to shame people who cram lambs or calves into trucks for days at a time (with little interest in how they cope) when they can point to the chicken farmers doing the same for an animal's entire lifetime.

Every law that holds food production to a sane and reasonable standard is one step closer to shutting down cruelty led farming. That includes live exports either directly or indirectly.

It is almost impossible to fight one symptom of cruel farming practices without becoming informed about how our all food is produced and then doing something about it.

Ending live exports is important but live exports are, in many ways, a symptom of a deeper problem. Live animal exports, like the ones that go through Ramsgate, do not exist in isolation. There is a chain of laws, industry standards (or a lack of them) and consumer ignorance that allows such trades to exist.

Every cruel or ineffective law replaced by something that makes a difference reduces the foundation on which live animal exports rests.

Give the RSCPA the tools they need to take action and you can be sure they will. Give governments and local authorities better tools to shut down cruelty and they will jump at the chance because that would be an easy vote winner.

Enforcement of exisitng laws

Tools like petitions, press events, letter writing, and protests have failed to get a ban here or in the EU on live exports. What regulation or legislation there is already is frequently flouted or outright ignored.

When local authorities want to end something but find themselves without the power to do so, drawing their attention to laws that enable them to fight back should be a no-brainer.

By turning our attention here, we have a tool to reduce the profitability of live exports. Demanding a ban is right and should continue but, at the same time, we must insist that current legislation is rigorously enforced.

Sometimes rules are ignored because it is cheaper to pay the fine than to follow the law. In such cases, we should push for far stiffer penalties.

Sometimes regulations are flouted openly because there is no one to enforce them. In such cases, we should be demanding that the enforcement responsibility is placed firmly in the remit of a single agency. Just so long as that agency has the will to carry out the enforcement.

Whatever the reason that existing legislation is not enforced, we need to look at ways of fixing that lack. Rigorously enforcement reduces the profits involved in live exports and other morally questionable trades. Rigorously enforcement makes live export harder and less attractive. Rigorously enforcement gives local authorities the tools they need to take action.

Identify the customers and offer alternatives

I've read a lot about the campaigns against live exports. Very little is said about the people and organisations that are buying these exported animals. That could be because we don't know who these customers are or maybe it is just because they live far away and are hard to protest to.

If we were to find even a few of these customers a less cruel, more economical alternative the market for live exports would shrink. I'm not saying that this is easy but it is a possibility.

It would require that we work in union with people from countries across Europe and the rest of the world. People that might feel as we do, that the trade is wrong. Cooperation is the name of the game, here. The window for doing that might be as small as two years. After Brexit (assuming that it is not stopped), there may be a good many more barriers to such cooperation.

Adding both pressure and attractive alternatives to the customers of live animal exports have a good chance of removing the reason for exports to take place in the first place.

Demand that exporters pay their own costs

I have pointed out before that the exporters should pay for all their costs. Like the cost of a police presence and the cost of vet inspections.

Costs like these can only be forced onto the ones who, morally, should be paying them with legislation. That is our lawmakers need to, very carefully, grant local authorities the power to charge companies for the drain they place on local taxpayers.

Right now, like it or not, we are all paying for live exports. Has KCC ever looked at if they could pass some of that cost on to the export companies?

Before UKIP took over, TDC was at least trying to stop live exports from Ramsgate. what support did KCC give them, if any?

There is an election coming up very soon. This is the perfect time to ask the candidates for election to KCC what they would do to stop live exports.

As a candidate myself, I can tell you I would certainly be willing to invest my energies in anything that could slow, reduce, or stop live animal exports from Kent. I am standing in Cliftonville ward as a Liberal Democrat and I can tell you that all Thanet's Lib-Dem KCC candidates feel the same - we all want to see live exports stopped. You'd have to be inhuman not to want that.

But enough about me, ask your KCC candidates about what they will be doing to stop your council tax money being spent to defend live exporters.

Create more attractive alternatives

Exporters are not one-dimensional villains, even if we are prone to think of them like this. They have a motivation for what they do. That motivation is money.

By creating a less stressful, more popular alternative to exporting that is of approximate or equal value don't you think the exporting farms would take it? This might require legislation, this might require organised and tactical shopping, this might require simply sitting down with the farmers and working out new ideas.

Part of this solution may require us to go about changing existing laws to something that has a basis in reality. Laws that open up opportunities to farm in a cruelty-free way. Or the legislation and ground work might already exist and be waiting for someone to champion it.

For example, there are already alternatives to the way we run our dairy farms. Alternatives that allow us to raise calves locally for beef production. alternatives that would allow less cruelty and higher profits - the two need not be mutually exclusive. All we need to do is incentivise farmers that export to switch to a non-export model.

I don't claim to know, yet, what all those alternatives might be - I'm not an expert on farming - but almost everything has a better alternative if we are willing to look for one.

Most problems have conflict-free solutions even when both sides are radically different. I don't see why live exports should be an exception to this rule. Ending live exports is what we want. Converting exporters to cruelty-free farming is every bit as much of a win as shutting them down.

Shrink the market

You can always vote with your wallet. After all, if the market is not there, the trade cannot exist.

This might mean become vegan and removing one more person from the home market for animal products (such as milk). Or it might mean asking questions about where your food came from and avoiding certain farms' produce.

This might mean simply becoming better informed about food production and making choices based on what you learn.

This might mean leaning on supermarkets to source from cruelty-free farms. In fact, of all the options this one could have the biggest and most dramatic effect. Sure, we would need to do this in large numbers - supermarkets are moved only by large numbers - but it would be possible.

After all, supermarkets are the distributors for a lot of our food and on those times when they do flex those muscles supplies sit up and pay attention.

I ask you, have we done enough to shrink the market for cruelty?

Don't stop

No one of us can end the blight of live exports. Together we can put a dent in them. With the support of the EU (while we have it) and our local authorities, we can further reduce this trade. We don't stop until live exports are nothing but a shameful part of our history.

Sign petitions, attend protests if you wish, and write letters. Just don't stop there. Let us ask ourselves what we can do to remove the motivation for the live export trade at the same time.

Live animal exports are the symptom of a bigger problem. Problems of this magnitude are not solved overnight but they must be solved.

It starts with each of us learning the truth about where our food comes from and then making a choice.

What will your choice be?

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