A ship loaded with sheep was forced to turn back in the English Channel yesterday (21 November) after leaving from Ramsgate in gale force winds (press release by Klare Kennett – RSPCA).


The Jolene, loaded with two lorries containing hundreds of sheep, sailed from Ramsgate port at 11am this morning – before it left one of the lorries had closed sides and could not be viewed by RSPCA inspectors but the other was open and a lame sheep was seen.


A Defra vet climbed on board and tried to find it but was unable to and the ship sailed with the sheep on board.but at 1pm  as conditions became worse in the Channel, a decision was made to turn the Jolene around and it began sailing back to Ramsgate, finally arriving back at 4.30pm. 


When the ship arrived back the Animal Health inspectors said that the sheep would be examined on the ship. RSPCA inspectors made a formal request to take part in the inspection on board but were refused permission.


Following an eight-minute inspection by Animal Health, the lorries were unloaded and left the port to drive back to where they had come from. Legally they are allowed to travel up to 14 hours with the sheep on board then they have to rest for one hour before travelling for another 14 hours.  The RSPCA was not told where the sheep were being taken to.


Shipping forecasts for this afternoon issued severe storm force 10 gale warnings and the state of the sea was described as rough or very rough.


RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant said: “RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant said: “It is barbaric that animals are at sea on open decks in these appalling weather conditions This ship is designed to work in rivers, not in the open sea. 


“Today’s crossing amounts to torture of these animals. We are lodging a complaint with the appropriate authorities and expect a full investigation into why this ship was allowed to sail – in clear breach of the restrictions which state that it cannot sail in such winds and wave heights.”


The Jolene is now docked at Ramsgate and the RSPCA has not been told when the ship will try to sail again.


Thanet District Council took the decision to close the port to live exports after a horrific incident in September when 47 sheep died.


 A High Court judge, Mr Justice Burton, said the port should reopen pending a judicial review of the council’s decision to close it. The judicial review is expected to start at the beginning of December.


If you would like to help the RSPCA, you can give £3 now by texting HELP to 78866 (Text costs £3 + one standard network rate message)