Animal export protest fails

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A crowd of 2,000 animal rights protesters clashed with police yesterday in an attempt to stop the first lorry load of veal calves reaching the Essex port of Brightlingsea. Twenty-two people were treated for minor injuries in the crush.

The town was brought to a standstill as demonstrators blocked the narrow road into the port. Among them were a group of 10 protesters who roped themselves across the street and had to be cut free before they could be removed by police.

It was the first time calves had been brought to the tiny port since live animal exports to Belgium began there four weeks ago. The convoy included five lorries containing 2,000 sheep and one loaded with 120 calves.

The consignment reached the wharf despite the demonstration and was due to be shipped to Nieuwpoort in the MV Caroline on last night's high tide.

But Essex police said a fax had been received from the Belgian town's mayor saying no livestock would be allowed to land over the weekend.

Meanwhile, the Farmers' Union of Wales (FUW) yesterday failed in a meeting with company representatives to persuade Irish Ferries to lift its ban on the shipment of livestock through Holyhead. While talks were in progress, about 50 farmers staged a peaceful demonstration 30 miles away at Bangor. Some warned that unless the trade was resumed shortly, their protests could escalate. Tractors might be brought in to secure the passage of livestock vehicles.

The FUW president, Bob Parry, who has called for Army intervention, said: "Farmers went to show their feelings and to give a warning of what could happen."

In Dover, lorry drivers caused traffic jams in protest at the ban by leading ferry companies and the port's harbour board on the export of live farm animals. About 40 empty transport vehicles were driven in convoy in the early morning. Drivers circled the town centre at 10mph for about 20 minutes, sounding horns. Police then persuaded them to leave.

The President of the National Farmers Union, Sir David Naish, criticised the protest as counter-productive.