Animal Aid

Defra 'stripped' of its prosecution function

Posted 24 August 2011

A year-long campaign by Animal Aid to have Defra stripped of its prosecution powers has culminated this week in confirmation that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will now take over this role. The news comes in the wake of a media furore caused by Defra’s refusal to prosecute Cheale Meats, an Essex slaughterhouse where workers were filmed burning pigs with cigarettes, punching an animal in the head and forcing seriously injured pigs to drag themselves to slaughter.

Animal Aid first drew attention to a conflict of interest within Defra 12 months ago when the government department dropped all outstanding prosecution cases against four slaughterhouse owners and nine employees. The evidence against them had been obtained by Animal Aid using covert, fly-on-the-wall cameras. Animal Aid believes that the decision to abandon these prosecutions was politically motivated (the previous Labour government had investigated and brought criminal charges) and stated publicly its concern that Defra should not be both the industry’s champion and its regulator. The department’s close ties to the farming and slaughter industries – three of the four Defra Ministers are also farmers, while the fourth worked for the National Farmers Union before becoming an MP – strengthened Animal Aid’s belief that a conflict of interest was inevitable.

Animal Aid had pressed for the independent Food Standards Agency to take on the role of prosecutor and had lobbied MPs to that effect. But an announcement quietly made on the Attorney General’s website on 12th July stated that the CPS would be taking over the role, a move that Animal Aid welcomes.

Animal Aid’s Head of Campaigns Kate Fowler said:

‘We are heartened that future decisions about slaughterhouse prosecutions will fall to the CPS. Defra is much too close to the industry and, as a result of this, many slaughterhouse workers have escaped prosecution, including some whose actions can only be described as sadistic. We hope that this change will lead to the individuals recently filmed burning, kicking and punching pigs at an Essex slaughterhouse being charged and prosecuted.’

The Food Standards Agency is now investigating the cruelty at Cheale Meats and will hand the file to the Crown Prosecution Service.

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