A spokesman for the company last night refused to confirm any details but said that a statement would be issued today. He said: 'The number of people taking the trouble to make their feelings known to us about this issue has gone through the roof. We're talking about hundreds of thousands of letters and cards. These are ordinary people who feel very strongly that there's no place for this business today. We're listening to the wishes of an increasing number of our passengers.'
He said the company had listened to the arguments of farmers and animal rights groups, and had also met ministers before reaching a decision on whether to continue with the business, which earns less than pounds 1m a year. The ban, which will have little impact on the company's pounds 400m turnover, will affect services from Dover, Newhaven and Southampton to France and the Harwich-Hook of Holland service run by its Dutch sister company Stena Line.
The ban is the latest demonstration of support for animal rights campaigners, and in particular the RSPCA, which had a meeting with Stella Sealink earlier this month. In deciding on the bans, the ferry companies have agreed with the RSPCA that the views of the public, in this case their customers, are more important than the farmers, who will suffer.
More than 2.5 million cattle, sheep and pigs were sent to Europe by ferry last year, and the National Farmers' Union has warned that the livelihoods of many of Britain's farmers are at risk.
The news was welcomed last night by Mark Glover of the pressure group, Respect for Animals. He said: 'We're absolutely thrilled because this is what we were calling for from the start. Stena is the first to come back and agree to it. It shows the absolute power of consumer campaigning, because the consumers made it perfectly clear to the ferry companies that they would not be using them while they were carrying live animals. The response to our call was overwhelming.'
P&O, which carries 60 per cent of cross-channel livestock, announced last month that it would stop carrying live farm animals to Europe for slaughter from October 1 unless there was 'imminent prospect' of enforceable legislation in Europe to improve conditions. Brittany Ferries, which carries about 10 per cent, last week stopped transporting farm animals unless they were being sent for fattening or breeding.
Of the other major cross-channel operators, Eurotunnel and Sally Line are forbidden by law to carry animals and Hoverspeed is unable to carry them. British Airways announced an immediate ban on carrying live animals for slaughter earlier this month after an outcry over 50 sheep carried in the hold of a jumbo jet.
A spokesman for the National Farmers' Union said: 'This is going to be another body blow for farmers, but I'm sure that given their usual resilience they will find some way of getting over it. Obviously welfare is a matter of great concern to people.'Reuse content