The Fellowship of Life
From the Methodist Recorder dated April 18, 1996:
The export of live animals through the port of Dover has led to almost daily demonstrations by animal rights campaigners, who are receiving increasing support from local churches.
Dover is the only port in England where such exports continue, even though the port authorities do not want the trade and tried to refuse it, only to have their decision overturned by the High Court.
The protesters stand outside the dock gates in all weathers. The Rev Gordon Newton, superintendent minister of the Dover and Deal circuit, and his wife Elaine are often alongside the protesters. Mrs Newton, a local preacher who is candidating for the ministry, maintains an often silent vigil, with her placard "Jesus the Good Shepherd cares for his Sheep".
"At the heart of the issue is the fact that animals are not classified as sentient creatures by the Treaty of Rome," said Mr Newton. "If this change could be made, new legislation would need to follow to make conditions of travel and methods of slaughter more humane."
Mrs Newton stressed that the protest was not against Britain's farmers or against eating meat. "It is crying out for compassion in farming, for good morals and principles to return, for meat to be sent abroad rather than live animals, creating more jobs in this country," she said.
"These creatures suffer such appalling conditions. They are sent over in their thousands to conditions so cruel that they are illegal here. Many die during the journey itself."
Although there has been a temporary halt to all exports since the end of March, next week sheep are expected to go in their masses for ritual Muslim slaughter in fields just outside Paris.
"Until fears about BSE led to a ban on cattle exported from this country, calves were packed into lorries, some suffering broken limbs, or even crushed to death on the way," said Mrs Newton. "Those that survive are chained in small crates in such a way that they can hardly stand up or lie down properly. For six months they are left alone like this, fed only liquids. By the time slaughter comes to release them from their sufferings, they are so weak they cannot stand or walk."
Mrs Newton welcomes the increased support by the churches for the protest. "The Church should be about getting out there in the world and sharing the love and compassion of Jesus. Many conversations about God have started up with other protesters.
"They are there because they care and many are genuinely wanting to know where God is in all this. Some have started attending church. "You won't have heard about the protesters who gave the police hot chocolate because they were cold and wet, or about the continual requests for Christian input, Christian services there, or about the Methodist, Roman Catholic and Church of England clergy who stood together with the protesters more than once to pray and read from the Bible as the lorries went by.
"Very occasionally, a small minority will come in and use the protest as an excuse to cause trouble. The people who go regularly are genuine caring people, many who have never protested in any way before but feel so strongly about this cause that they are compelled to take action.
"A small minority of church people criticise the protesters and do not think Christians should be involved with such an 'unruly mob'. But similar accusations were thrown against Jesus and John Wesley."
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