BARTERED LIVES - Appendix 2: Current legislation
Treatment of animals at markets is governed by the Welfare of Animals at Markets Order 1990 and the Welfare of Animals at Markets (Amendment) Order 1993. Both were made under the Animal Health Act of 1981 and both carry the force of law - it being a criminal offence to breach their various provisions.
Guidance as to what the government regards as good welfare practices is contained in MAFF's Code of Practice on the Welfare of Animals in Livestock Markets. While this does not carry the force of law, it is often used in court cases to support a prosecution. The Code states '...it is possible that the provisions of the Code may be brought to the Court's attention during any legal proceedings under the Order'.
The following provides a summary of the Welfare of Animals at Markets Order, and the accompanying Code of Practice:
i) Unfit Animals
Unfit animals may not be exposed for sale in a market. In addition, an animal should not be exposed for sale if it is likely to give birth while it is there. An unfit animal can be diseased, ill, injured, lame, deformed, emaciated, weak or exhausted.
The Code adds 'It is not possible to list the various degrees and types of injury, illness etc. So to avoid causing animals suffering and the risk of prosecution, owners and hauliers must ensure that only fit, healthy animals are sent to market. Auctioneers and other market operators should make it very clear that unfit animals will not be accepted in their market.'
ii) Protection of Animals from Unnecessary Sufffering
No one is allowed to cause or permit injury or 'unnecessary' suffering to an animal in a market. The person in charge of the animal in a market should ensure that such an offence is not caused by exposure to the weather, inadequate ventilation, the animal being hit or prodded by any instrument or 'other thing', or by any other cause.
iii) Handling of Animals
No animal should be lifted, dragged, or carried by the head, neck, ears, horns, legs, feet, tail, fleece or wing.
The Code expands '...everyone should think carefully about whether animals are being caused pain or discomfort. For instance, the temptation to lift calves by any neck tie should be resisted, as should twisting their tail and 'wheel-barrowing'.
The Order states that poultry should not be tied up by the neck, leg or wing. They may, however, be lifted or tied by the leg if being weighed, and geese may be lifted off the ground by the base of both wings. A lead sheep or goat may be guided or moved by the horns or neck fleece, but should not be dragged.
iv) Control of Animals
Nobody is allowed to use 'excessive force' to control any animals in a market. Instruments which give electric shocks may not be used on animals, nor should pigs be hit or prodded with any thing other than a flat slap stick or a slap marker. Electric goads may be used on the hindquarters of cattle over the age of six months or on adult pigs, but only if they are 'refusing to move forward when there is space for them to do so'. Calves should not be hit or prodded in any way.
Nobody should drive or lead any animal over ground/floor which may cause the animal to slip or fall.
The Code of Practice goes into some detail about droving, specifying that the job requires 'calm, sympathetic, unhurried handling by persons competent and experienced with livestock'. The animals should have one unobstructed way forward.
The Code adds that sticks 'should only be used as an extension of the arm for persuasion and encouragement and NOT to beat animals with'. Sticks with nails or other sharp points or projections should not be used, and animals should not be struck with plastic piping, or kicked, punched or dragged.
vi) Obstruction and Annoyance of Animals
Animals should not be knowingly obstructed when being driven or led through market, says the Order, nor should they be 'wantonly or unreasonably' annoyed.
vii) Penning and Caging
The market operator must ensure that no animal is kept 'in a pen, cage, or hutch which is unsuitable for the size and species of that animal'.
A pen for calves or pigs should be big enough for all of them to lie down at the same time. A cage or hutch for rabbits or poultry should be big enough to enable poultry to stand 'in their natural position' or to enable all rabbits to sit upright on all four feet without their ears touching the top of the cage/hutch.
When animals are kept in pens, they must be separated according to species. Animals with young at foot should not be kept in the same undivided pen as any other animals unless they are of the same species and of a 'mutually acceptable disposition'. Fractious animals should be kept in a separate pen, cage or hutch from any other animal.
The Code states that any unfit animals must be kept apart from other animals, in special pens where they can be tended. It also specifies 'Sheep should not be penned too tightly, and special attention should be paid to heavily fleeced sheep in warm weather. Recently-shorn sheep (and any animals used to covered accommodation) may require shelter in adverse weather conditions'.
viii) Feeding and Watering of Animals
The person in charge of an animal is obliged to provide 'an adequate quantity of wholesome water as often as is necessary to prevent it suffering from thirst'. 'Adequate facilities' in the form of troughs, buckets etc., should also be provided. Animals spending prolonged periods of time in a market (i.e. overnight) must also be provided with food.
As the Code explains: 'Potentially, a long time could elapse without animals being fed and watered, from their last feed on the vendors' farm, during journeys to and from the market, and in the time spent there. This situation must be avoided. It is not safe to assume that animals have recently been fed and for the person currently in charge to leave the responsibility to someone else.... Clean water should be available to all animals at risk of becoming thirsty. It is especially important to provide water to lactating animals, and that during hot weather all livestock are carefully watched and provided for.... During any market day, vendors and auctioneers should be in no doubt who is to provide suitable food and water to animals on arrival or during their stay at the market.'
ix) Provision of Lighting and Bedding
Adequate lighting must be provided to enable animals to be inspected and to be fed and watered. Adequate bedding must be provided for calves, pigs, dairy cattle in milk or calf, goats in milk or in kid, and lambs or kids under four weeks (unless the lamb is kept at the foot of its mother).
x) Calves, Lambs and Kids
No calves younger than seven days old or with wet or unhealed navels may be brought to market. Calves under 12 weeks old may not be marketed twice in any 28-day period. They must be removed from the market within four hours of the last calf sale. They must not be tied or muzzled when in their pens.
Following the introduction of the Welfare of Animals at Markets (Amendment) Order in 1993, it is now an offence to expose for sale a lamb or kid with an unhealed navel. (Navels usually heal when the lamb or kid is between two and seven days, but spray products are now available that cause the navel to dry out more rapidly.)
The Code adds: 'It should not be necessary for unaccompanied young lambs and kids to be subject to the rigours of market day'. But if they are, they shoud be penned in 'draught-free, well-strawed, covered accommodation with room to lie down in comfort'. They should be sold in the pen and removed quickly from the market (max. six hours stay there).
xi) Covered Accommodation
The market authority must provide covered accommodation for calves, pigs, goats, dairy cattle in milk, rabbits and poultry, as well as for lambs less than four weeks old, unless the lamb is kept at the foot of its mother (see above). The market operator must ensure that these animals are kept in the provided accommodation.
xii) Sale Rings
The Code requires rings to be kept clear, with not more than two people inside, and unobstructed entrances, exits, and passageways. The habitual hitting or goading of animals within the sale ring should not be permitted. The Code states 'The auction ring is an unfamiliar and noisy environment for animals in which they may be isolated from others and kept on the move. The need for calm, considerate handling is therefore particularly important at this point.'
The Code says that lactating animals should not be allowed to become overstocked with milk, which is an offence if it causes 'unnecessary suffering'. These animals should be milked before they come to market, sold quickly, and then taken away from the market. If an animal must be milked, this should be done by skilled personnel.