High Court rules that ports must take "lawful exports"!

Major disruption to cross-channel traffic expected, as Dover is predicted to be the scene of a "long hot summer" of protests and civil disobedience.

April 1995

The High Court has ruled that ports and airports have an obligation to accept lawful animal exports, as ports are a 'public service'. Live exporters took the case to court after Coventry airport and the port of Dover tried to block live animal exports.

The port authorities stated as part of their case that they had an obligation to refuse any traffic that might cause disruption to other port users, which often happens at the protests at the ports. Kent police have warned Dover that the A2 and A20 approach roads may have to be closed in the event of as little as 250 protesters being present. Recent protests at Brightlingsea and Shoreham have seen many times more than this amount of people present.

The judges called the attempts to ban the exports "surrender to mob rule", and condemned the local councils for failing to "uphold the rule of law". It seems that it is the judges' view that democracy has no place at the ports.

The civil rights group Liberty joined in condemnation of the judges' comments about the protests. "A Private Member's Bill to stop live animal exports was introduced into Parliament in February but ran out of time when one of William Waldegrave's aides spent 24 minutes reading chunks from the Encyclopedia Britannica to furious MPs. In the face of antics like that, it seems both ludicrous and insulting to claim that people should trust in the parliamentary process rather than engaging in protest that has been largely peaceful."

"The problem is that all the people making the decisions... they're one of two things. They're either in the trade and profiting from it or, like the judge, distant from the people," animal rights activist Carla Lane told BBC Radio.

Plymouth council also failed in their attempt to force the port to refuse animal exports. However, Plymouth is expected to become an uneconomic option for the exporters if exports from Dover resume, due to the longer journey time. Ironically, Coventry airport itself may also become uneconomic for similar reasons.