Sunday, February 12, 2006

Police To Guard Sheep Ship From Animal Rights Activists

12 people were arrested after clashes between protesters and police at a rally against live sheep exports in Devonport yesterday morning. About 40 protesters, including many from interstate animal-welfare organisations, tried to stop sheep from being loaded on the Al Messilah, which is bound for the Middle East. Seven of the 12 people arrested, on charges including trespassing and obstructing police, are from interstate. All 12 were bailed to appear in court at a later date. Suzanne Cass from Against Animal Cruelty Tasmania hailed yesterday's action as a success despite the arrests. "I don't think Devonport is ever going to be the same again," she said. "It was brilliant. We wanted to highlight the plight of these animals to the country and I think we will have achieved that."
Al Messilah
Eight police are now guarding the Al Messilah as 50,000 sheep valued at $2.5 million are loaded on to the ship, which leaves for Kuwait tonight. Early yesterday morning the protesters, some from NSW, Victoria and South Australia, used powerboats and kayaks to try to stop the ship from docking. Acting Inspector Adrian Shadbolt, of Devonport police, said protesters had defied an order to stay at least 50m from the ship and several had laid in front of the sheep trucks, including one man who had tried to chain himself to a vehicle. Primary Industries Minister Steve Kons and Liberal counterpart Jeremy Rockliff inspected the Al Messilah yesterday and both said they supported the farmers' right to participate in the live-sheep export trade. Mr Kons said the State Government would prefer sheep to be processed in Tasmania but could not interfere in the Commonwealth-regulated live-sheep trade and would not stand in the way of farmers getting the best price for their product. "The live-sheep trade has come a long way in recent years and the shippers have to meet the strictest conditions in the world for sheep exported from Australia," he said. "I spoke to some of the protesters at the wharf and assured them the conditions on the ship met strict Australian standards." Police will maintain a presence at the wharf until all the sheep are on board to ensure the road remains open to traffic and to ensure the safety of protesters, who are expected to return this morning. DPIWE officers will also closely monitor sheep at the feedlot and at the wharf to ensure their welfare.

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