Farming has always had its share of slightly dubious characters.
They generally fall under the classification of "rogue" and are treated with a blend of good-natured tolerance and caution.
Sheep held in a makeshift pen at Ramsgate after the situation that led to Thanet Council suspending the live export trade from the port last week
However, roguery ceases to be a term that can be employed to excuse unacceptable behaviour when it comes to animal welfare.
Which is why the National Sheep Association and everyone else concerned has been alarmed about the latest events involving live exports from Ramsgate, where 43 sheep in various states of disability had to be put down after intervention by vets and two more drowned after the floor of a loading area collapsed and they fell into the sea.
Thanet Council has suspended all live exports from its port until further notice and Farming Minister David Heath has ordered an immediate investigation into the events there. He has also told the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency to take a zero-tolerance approach to enforcing and maintaining animal welfare.
But this is just the latest in a series of incidents at Ramsgate and will merely hand more valuable propaganda to those who are still fighting for the live export trade to be halted.
Shipping animals across the Channel on the hoof, rather than the hook, has been one of the most emotive elements of the livestock sector for years, mainly because of what was happening on the other side, where campaigners collected evidence of animals being onward transported in appalling conditions to southern Italy and Greece for slaughter.
EU regulations on animal movements are supposed to have put an end to all the malpractice, but the problem now appears to be on this side of the water.
The incident at Ramsgate earlier this month was just the latest: clearly the Kent port has become the preferred dispatch route for those who rank animal welfare a lesser priority than turning a profit.
Thanet Council says it will only lift its ban once improved handling facilities are built, but from its tone is clearly not going to rush to do the work – and it may well be that the trade will never restart.
Continental markets are clamouring for British beef and lamb and the trade is proving a financial lifeline for many livestock farmers, particularly in the South West.
We cannot risk re-opening the whole debate about live exports and putting the issue back on the political agenda because there are plenty of organisations and individuals ready to scupper the trade. The rogues must be rooted out and stopped.
Meat Trade News Daily Supporting British Pig Farmers
Back to News Headlines