Port demonstrators turn back sheep cargo

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Animal rights protesters successfully blockaded a port last night and turned back a lorry full of sheep bound for the Continent.

More than 500 protesters at the Essex port of Brightlingsea forced the lorry to turn back after it attempted to run the blockade of 1,500 demonstrators. Police decided not to allow the vehicle to continue because of fears that people would be injured.

The truck, with 400 sheep aboard, was attempting to reach the dockside to load its cargo aboard a vessel bound for Belgium - and European slaughterhouses.

Six lorry-loads of sheep - the first of a lengthy contract of shipments - were scheduled to be delivered to the Belgian port of Nieuport, near Ostend. As the first lorry in the convoy arrived at 6.35pm last night, a police escort of vans and massed officers were confronted by protesters.

After a local man in a wheelchair, Christopher Flood, had pushed himself from his chair in front of the lorry, with other protesters shouting abuse at the drivers, and dirt being thrown on the cab windows, the lorry eventually halted only a few yards from the main mass of the protest near the only public road entrance to the port.

As the first lorry was turned back, another three were on their way to Brightlingsea on the A12. But later police told the protesters that no lorries would be allowed into the port overnight. About 10 protesters were arrested during the day.

The Assistant Chief Constable of Essex, Jeff Markham, said that the police had taken the decision to turn back the lorry on the grounds of public safety. The large number of young children and elderly women among the protesters had influenced his decision. He said the police would review the situation today.

Francesca D'Silva, from Brightlingsea Against Live Exports, said she would accept Mr Markham's word that no further lorries would be allowed near the port area.