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Government welcomes our new market report
Posted 1 September 2004
A Dirty Business, our recent report exposing serious post-foot and mouth 'biosecurity' failings at UK livestock markets, has drawn an unusually enthusiastic response from Department for Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFRA) Minister Ben Bradshaw. We have called for a meeting with him to press home our points.
Livestock sales were shown to have played a central role in the wide and rapid dissemination of the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak, which led to the destruction of more than six million animals and cost taxpayers billions of pounds.
Even at Longtown market in Cumbria, which DEFRA identified as the epicentre of the 2001 epidemic, Animal Aid MarketWatchers witnessed basic rules on disinfection being ignored.
Our monitors also observed many diseased and injured animals at sales across the country. They saw animals with swellings, bleeding cuts and abscesses. Animals were seen being hit, kicked, crushed by gates and poked with sticks.
'Your report is timely', Bradshaw wrote, 'as it supports our view that the attitude of many farmers to biosecurity still needs attention. Some heads of trading standards and other local authority enforcement departments have welcomed your report as it will raise the profile and awareness of the issue and they share your concerns about the risks, should standards fall further.'
Our response to the Minister
Our letter in reply noted: 'When biosecurity breaks down and disease outbreaks follow, the welfare burden upon farmed animals - already considerable under modern high-throughput production systems - becomes that much greater. That is why we have argued for many years that when animals are stressed and ill treated there is also a price to pay for the farmer, the consumer (sick and enfeebled animals produce unhealthy meat) and the taxpayer.
'We stated in our report that the industry is quick to blame everyone else for disease catastrophes such as foot and mouth. ...We believe it is essential for DEFRA to insist upon the enforcement of the strictest rules - both for biosecurity and the directly related matter of animal welfare.'
We went on to insist that many market welfare problems that we have brought to public attention over many years remain unresolved. For example:
In our 2001 report, called Bartered Lives, we urged the government to 'establish a welfare league table of markets, based on data provided by State Veterinary Service vets. Markets unable to meet a standard consistent with even the current welfare requirements must upgrade or close'.
In the same document we demanded that the government 'provides sufficient financial resources for the proper enforcement of the law and its own 1998 Welfare Strategy'.
Other related issues we want to discuss with Bradshaw face-to-face include the training of animal handlers, the provision of water, stocking densities, the handling of sick and injured animals, emergency slaughter and loading/unloading.
Please help spread the news about the plight of animals at markets by writing to you local newspaper or taking part in radio phone-ins.