A Dirty Business : The history of MarketWatch
It has been ten years since Animal Aid published its first report, called Auctioning Animal Flesh, based on visits to five randomly chosen markets.
The report showed that animals were being frequently denied water, beaten, driven across slippery surfaces and kept in overcrowded pens. It also revealed that many animals were brought to market sick or injured.
Auctioning Animal Flesh gave birth to Animal Aid's MarketWatch monitoring network. It is thanks to these dedicated individuals and their hard work that all our reports have been possible.
Our second report, A Brutal Business, published in 1997, demonstrated that there had been some slight improvement in markets over the four years since the publication of the first dossier. Nonetheless, emaciated, diseased and lame animals were still consistently being taken to market. Random acts of violence - such as kicking, hitting and using electric goads - were still rife. Animals were still pushed over slippery surfaces and deprived of water.
In September 1998, prompted in large part by our second report, the government launched its new Strategy for the Protection of Animal Welfare at Livestock Markets This document mainly reiterated previous laws that Animal Aid MarketWatchers had seen consistently flouted over the years. However, it did require that, on at least 25 per cent of market days, vets from the State Veterinary Service (SVS) would be present. This meant that independent practitioners would be on hand, hopefully to provide an impartial service that local commercial vets could not, for fear of making themselves unpopular with their clients by - for instance - declaring animals unfit for slaughter because they were injured or disease-ridden.
The Strategy also compelled market operators to keep 'Incidents Books' to be made available to SVS and local authority officers. These books would record injuries, sickness, lack of water and poor animal handling.
2001 saw the launch of our third report, called Bartered Lives. It set out to investigate how well the Strategy was being implemented. Our MarketWatchers monitored 15 English markets. The survey revealed that an increased number of 'surplus' emaciated and neglected animals were being taken to sale. This was put down to the financial hardship experienced by farmers and dealers.
This report also showed how conditions for many animals were still just as bad as before. The violence continued - with sticks and electric goads in frequent use. The majority of animals were still being deprived of water. The number of injured and diseased animals remained high. There was lack of adequate enforcement of animal welfare legislation.
Click here for Appendix 2, in which we relate the story of the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic.