Legal action has been launched after five horses were found dead on a ferry en route to the Continent.
The animals were in a lorry belonging to a Portugese transport company, which had arrived on an overnight crossing from Portsmouth to Caens early on 26 August.
A driver for a different company, who was at the docks waiting to board a ferry back to Britain with a lorryload of polo ponies, was asked for his help.
“I thought a horse must have got over a partition,” he told H&H.
“But when I got there, I saw a load of them dead, and the others didn’t look good.
“One jumped out, trampling his dead mates, they had to get tug boats to drag the dead ones out. It was too much.
“My co-driver, who happened to be Portugese, couldn’t stop crying, he was that upset.”
A spokesman for Brittany ferries said the incident was the subject of legal action.
“Our staff were horrified to discover this awful situation and these poor creatures,” he told H&H.
“We’re going to defend the legal claim vigorously. We don’t believe we have any liability; we carry horses every day and this is an unprecedented situation in our 43-year history.”
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The spokesman said the animals that were still alive were “in a very poor condition”, but that they were taken to Bayeux, Normandy, “where I believe there’s a vet facility and I believe they recovered”.
He added: “We’ve got an excellent reputation on animal welfare – we were the first to ban live exports for meat – and we were as horrified as anyone else by this ghastly situation.”
The Portugese transport company confirmed it is suing Brittany ferries, but declined to comment until after the outcome of the case.