Animal exporters quit Plymouth

Fears of violence increase as campaigners against livestock trade claim major victory following shipping firm's decision to halt exports
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Animal rights campaigners won a significant victory yesterday when the company shipping animals through Plymouth pulled out of the trade.

MT Shipping was established in November last year to circumvent the ferry companies' voluntary ban. It was backed by a consortium of farmers, exporters and the Farmers' Union of Wales.

The company failed to make money and pulled out after less than three months of operation. Plymouth was the scene of bitter protests, policed by hundreds of officers at a cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Animal welfare campaigners were just beginning to step up their actions, in conjunction with workers at the port, to halt the trade. Sailors' union officials were concerned at the use of low-paid crew from the Maldives and Poland and described the the exporters' ship, the Cap Canaille, as little more than a "rust bucket". They also claimed that many animals died en route to France because of poor ventilation.

MT Shipping blamed the "rigid action of Associated British Ports in charging £13,000 for each visit of the Cap Canaille for making the trade uneconomic".

Bob Parry, President of the Farmers' Union of Wales, whose members used the port extensively, reacted angrily to yesterday's news and described it as a "great loss". He predicted that another company would try to charter a ship and operate from the port.

Despite the campaigners' successes at Plymouth there were fears last night that violence may be escalating. Yesterday the White Hart, in Shoreham, a pub used by former animal exporters operating from the port was damaged by fire. Police said there were "strong hints" that the fire was linked to the protests in the town. The remains of a suspected petrol bomb were found outside the pub.

The managers of the pub, Vince and Christine Farrell and their daughter, Caroline, 25, escaped unhurt. The Farrells were recently warned by suspected extremists to stop serving Alan and David Revell, two former directors of ITF, a shipping firm involved in the export of live animals from the port.

In a separate incident, John Curtin, a spokesman for the Animal Liberation Front, claims his home in Liverpool was attacked by four masked men wielding clubs last weekend.

On Monday, a 19-year-old animal welfare campaigner suffered two broken ribs when two masked men broke into her home in Manchester and beat her up.