A Dirty Business : Newton Abbot livestock market (29.10.03)
A Brutal Business report was published by Animal Aid six years ago for which we helped gain evidence of the cruelty and law breaking at livestock markets.
Since then, Animal Aid has produced another report, which we did not participate in, the reason being that the trauma of gaining evidence for A Brutal Business had seriously affected us.
So it has been some time since we have been in markets and certainly not since foot and mouth. I did smugly feel that with all the publicity that had surrounded the reports that markets would have changed for the better.
Newton Abbot livestock market this morning was a bitter disappointment. We hear the bellowing of frightened animals; see cows apparently trying to protect their young, and what I take to be the look of terror from animals peering out of the lorries as they arrive at the market.
Obviously our senses are heightened and we recognise this stress. But over the past few years, surely the world has moved on! Within the EU law it has been recognised that animals are sentient creatures with perceptions and feeling. Better training is needed for those who handle animals. Depressingly, none of this seems to have influenced Newton Abbot. To us, it seemed even worse than we could remember six years ago.
As soon as the tailgates were pulled down, the cattle were poked through the vents of the lorry to get them moving. They were then hit with sticks over the head and backs, poked in the backside into pens. Even when they were moving forward, they had to be hit. Putting them into the race was even more brutal. Not visiting this market on a regular basis we cannot say if this was just a bad day and they were new drovers, but we wouldn't be surprised to discover that this was a regular occurrence.
Trading standards, we believe, were in an office. Someone did emerge after the auction had finished but only after my fellow MarketWatcher shouted out to stop the animals continually being hit over the head. Sadly, one felt he decided to act only because of our presence; and that he had become desensitised and part of the market culture - despite any good intentions he may have had at the beginning.
There was no water in the pens. There was disinfectant for spraying lorry wheels and for foot baths - but we saw people going in and out of the market ignoring the signs to dip feet. The other MarketWatcher and I felt very depressed: all the hard work that has been done in the past to change the brutal culture of livestock markets and nothing seems to have changed at this market.
This concludes A Dirty Business. See Appendix 1 for a brief history of the MarketWatch campaign and Appendix 2 for the story of the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic. For more information on the welfare of farmed animals, plus advice on going veggie, see our vegetarian pages.