Animal Aid

A Dirty Business : Animal welfare

In most markets, sheep, in particular, are kept in over-crowded pens. They are confined in conditions so cramped that they often cannot lie down and must therefore stand on stone floors for the many hours they are on the premises.

'The indoor pen area, which measured approximately 12 by 8 foot, contained 25 sheep. The fleeced sheep filled every square inch of the pen and could barely move. One sheep tried to move but was forced upwards and stood on her back legs leaning on others for at least half a minute before squeezing back down (photo right).'

Frome, 3rd September 2003

Lack of water

Like all mammals, farmed animals need a regular supply of water. Without it they become dehydrated and suffer ill effects. However, animals brought to market generally go all day without water. The Code of Practice accompanying the Welfare of Animals at Markets Order (1990) states that animals staying overnight must be given water, but it does not say that it is necessary to provide animals with water during the day. This is true even through the blistering summer heat. Some animals will be brought to market at 7am and do not leave until 5pm or later, without having any liquid during this time. If they are loaded for the journey to sale in the early hours of the morning and have a long distance to cover after leaving, they can go 20 hours or more without water.

'I have seen animals who have escaped from pens drinking out of disinfection buckets.'

Worcester MarketWatcher

'No water is given to any of the animals whilst at market. No concessions were made with water during the very hot weather.'

Ashford MarketWatcher

Overcrowding at Frome market, Somerset.

Slippery/dangerous surfaces

A persisting problem, highlighted by our MarketWatchers in previous reports, is that of animals being forced to walk across slippery surfaces. In most cases, even when animals keep losing their footing, no extra straw or dusting is provided. For some market users, the sight of animals slipping is a source of amusement.

'There was a sparse covering of straw in the cattle rings. At times animals were slipping. One animal came into the ring very nervous and ran from one side of the ring to the other barely keeping on his feet.'

Frome, 3rd September 2003

'Whilst the sheep were being auctioned, a ceramic cup was knocked off a post and smashed on the floor of a sheep pen containing animals. The crowd, including the auctioneer, joked about the mishap and then everyone turned straight back to the auction. There was no attempt by anyone to pick up the broken pieces (including many small, sharp, splinter-like fragments) that posed a risk to the animals in the pen. I waited for the auction to move along the pens and managed to clear them up.'

Salisbury 2nd September 2003

'The beef auction ring showed numerous small potholes (up to 2 inches deep) randomly occurring around its circumference. There was also a sparse covering of straw that quickly became slippery to the animals. Many slipped as they entered the ring, most slipped whilst in the ring and at least two animals lost their footing completely - one landing on his knees and the other rolling on to his side. No extra straw was added.'

Chippenham, 28th August 2003

'One particular animal, who was extremely nervous, ran into the auction ring and immediately panicked. He ran from side to side, smelling the air and vocalising and slipped a number of times. The people around the ring cheered and laughed. He ran out of the ring at speed and again slipped in the exit.'

Frome, 24th September 2003

Sheep with growth, Frome market, Somerset.

Diseased and injured animals at market

MarketWatchers reported seeing many animals suffering from injury and disease. They observed some with physical abscesses or swellings and others with bleeding wounds sustained while at the market itself. In all cases, market workers and users showed little or no concern for the animals' plight.

'One sheep had a severe injury to her right ear as well as a smaller injury to her left. The injuries were noted when the animal was auctioned but in relation to the animal's value as opposed to her welfare.'

Salisbury, 2nd September 2003

'A sheep showed a swelling on her left flank that was approximately the size of a football. The auctioneer referred to the animal as "lumpy". There was no clarification of the animal's condition.'

Frome, 27th August 2003

'One particular pig had a conspicuous growth on his abdomen.'

Salisbury, 2nd September 2003

'Of significant note was an animal who was severely lame. The sheep was reluctant to put any weight on her left foreleg and held it in a completely unnatural way. This behaviour carried on continuously whilst I was at the market. She was obviously in a great deal of discomfort and was left to fend for herself.'

Talgarth, 12th March 2004

'A dead sheep was left lying against an outer wall adjoining the livestock unloading area. She had yellow/white fluid oozing from her nostrils.'

Longtown, 16th October 2003

'A cull ewe collapsed and died very quickly in front of me. The pen cleaners moved her on a trolley with her feet sticking up in the air, which was thought hilarious by some. She had been seen fitting, but been left.'

Ashford, 23rd September 2003

Cow with damaged eye, Chippenham market, Wiltshire.

Acts of violence towards and abuse of animals

The government's Strategy for the Protection of Animal Welfare at Livestock Markets (introduced in 1998) draws attention to specific acts that constitute unacceptable treatment. These include kicking, tail twisting and dragging animals. The current survey shows that animals at markets continue to be beaten, poked, kicked, slammed into with gates, sworn at and generally abused by those handling them.

'One person handling cows twisted around and clumped up a cow's tail who was reluctant to move forward. The man's hands were contaminated with faeces and he continued to handle other animals without washing his hands. Not only was he harming the animals, but he was also potentially spreading disease from one to another.'

Frome, 27th August 2003

'I saw many cattle being poked with sticks to "encourage" them to move on.'

Chippenham, 25th September 2003

Sheep with skin complaint, Chippenham market, Wiltshire.

'Over 150 Holsteins were up for auction today. They were promoted by the auctioneers in terms of their individual milk output. The majority of these animals in milk were dripping/squirting from their udders.'

Taunton, 7th October 2003

'Dairy cattle were unloaded. One cow had the pen gate rammed against her leg; she was kicked under the chin and neck as well as under her udder and back legs.'

Taunton, 30th September 2003

'One group of people were extremely brutal with the animals. For the best part of the day I could hear them shouting and swearing at the animals, with the sounds of sticks contacting animals.'

Holsworthy, 1st October 2003

Click here for the fourth and final part of the report, which features a special report from Newton Abbot livestock market.

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