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From CIWF Press Office:

Belfast has become the first UK port to be used for shipments of live sheep to the Continent after the lifting of foot-and-mouth disease restrictions. Already, two shipments have left with sheep originating from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

These initial shipments have been organised by Richard Otley using the Khalifeh-1 livestock boat. Mr Otley has previously been convicted for an animal cruelty offence in connection with live sheep transportation.

Compassion in World Farming is organising a peaceful protest against this trade at the Harbour Office, Port of Belfast, Corporation Square, Belfast at 10:30a.m. on Thursday 7th March 2002. CIWF wants no further shipments of live farm animals to leave from the Belfast port.

Joyce D'Silva, Director of Compassion in World Farming, said "This is catastrophic. We had hoped that the farming industry would see sense and not try and restart this inhumane trade. I urge UK sheep farmers to abandon the live sheep export trade which so often inflicts great suffering on animals.

Last week the French authorities refused entry for livestock from Khalifeh-1, apparently due to errors in paperwork. As a result the sheep were left on the boat for 12 days before being returned to the Republic of Ireland for slaughter.

Richard Hardy, organiser of the protest and Campaigns Manager for CIWF (Ireland) said, "Long distance transport often inflicts widespread suffering on animals and risks spreading infectious diseases. CIWF is gravely concerned that Belfast will become a 'Port of Shame' if it continues to export live animals to the Continent. We are calling on the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development not to allow the return of the Khalifeh-1 or any other livestock boat into a Northern Ireland port".