Animal Aid

FOOT AND MOUTH - Call for permanent closure of livestock markets

Posted 27 March 2001
Pigs in pen

The following statement has been issued by Animal Aid:

Animal Aid calls on the government to close livestock markets permanently, on the evidence of the role they have played in the rapid spread of foot and mouth disease. Animal Aid has been investigating markets, and monitoring the welfare of animals through its MarketWatch system, for almost a decade.

We have the backing of the National Animal Health and Welfare Panel - the key body that represents local authority inspectors charged with enforcing the welfare and animal health laws. We have produced a number of substantial dossiers, backed by undercover film that are used to train inspectors and even market operators in some counties.

We call on the animal farming industry to acknowledge the role of markets in transmitting disease, to which animals - stressed by long journeys and the hardships of the market experience itself - are particularly susceptible. Usually deprived of water, animals are frequently subjected to aggressive and neglectful treatment that often constitutes a breach of the market welfare laws and/or Code of Practice. They may arrive at market injured or sustain injuries during the day, as the physical fabric of many markets remains ramshackle.

Even in new markets, animals often slip on floors slick with urine and faeces. Frequently, no veterinary attention is received. More importantly from an economic standpoint, animals sick with infectious diseases such as foot rot and orf (one symptom of which is mouth blisters), are brought to market, even though it is an offence to present an unfit animal for sale.

MAFF officials have voiced surprise at the number of journeys undergone by sheep during the first few days of the foot and mouth outbreak. But they are ultimately responsible for a system where animals may be sold on from market to market around the country then driven, not to the nearest slaughterhouse, but to the killing plant from which the farmer or dealer will get the best price.

As indicated above, Animal Aid has presented three in-depth reports on livestock markets to the government and the enforcement authorities over the past eight years. The most recent was Bartered Lives (2000). The evidence we offered included cases of animals judged unfit and in need of immediate slaughter, yet sent on lengthy journeys to distant slaughterhouses. There were also sheep, labelled unfit for live export, but who were sent from Dover directly back into the market system for a further round of market-to-market bartering.

Now is the time for government and the animal farming industry to reject both this unnecessary layer of torment in an animal's journey to the slaughterhouse and the disease risks it carries.

Notes to Editors

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