|section:||Animals & Packaging|
For all these reasons, I regard the way 'livestock' animals are killed in this country to be a form of murder - one of the Oxford English dictionary meanings of murder being to 'kill wickedly or inhumane'.
Furthermore, based on my experience, I would argue that the way livestock animals - pigs being the species I am most familiar with - are bred, fattened and bartered, more often than not amounts to inhumane torture - given that one of the dictionary meanings of 'torture' is the infliction of severe physical or mental pain.
Evidence - some of it filmed - suggesting that the law was being routinely breached was presented in a 5,000 word report and a 15 minute video film. This was put before the Ministry of Agriculture and the media. I subsequently briefed - at their request - the National Animal Health and Welfare panel of trading standards officers.
During the course of the production of this market report and the above-mentioned articles, speeches and novel. I have seen a good deal of farming and slaughter practise.
Among the interviews I conducted was one with Paul Preston of McDonald's in July 1991.
Available for this witness
I now summarise something of what I have observed.
During this visit, I saw deliberate inadequate electrical stunning of pigs prior to them being shackled and having their throats cut.
The stunner admitted to me on audio tape that he was stunning the animals for substantially less time than required by Ministry regulations.
"If you were from the Ministry", the man told me, "I'd do it longer".
This saved him time in the context of a piece rates system that provided greater financial rewards where animals are more quickly slaughtered. But it inevitably meant that many of the animals passing through his hands were still conscious when they were shackled by a back leg, hoisted several feet in the air and had their throats cut. (Piece rates slaughter continues in many establishments throughout the country.)
I also saw the aforementioned shackling done ineptly, resulting in several animals crashing several feet onto their heads. One crashed to the ground, was reshackled, and crashed onto its head a second time.
The handling of the animals as they were driven from the lairage into the stunning pen was generally callous.
This slaughterhouse, incidentally, was a Minstry-approved, EC-approved plant supplying meat for major supermarkets. And the practitioners concerned were thoroughly typical of others I have seen at work and have interviewed.
Other research at the time indicates that what I saw was typical of practises throughout the country. The government's farm Animal Welfare Council produced a new report in 1984 on the slaughter of red meat animals that found many endemic shortcomings and failings and made 117 recommendations for improvement.
I made three other visits to slaughterhouses during this period.
On July 5 1988 I visited the FMC company's plant in Wimbourne where, again, the stunner gave the animals approximately half the stunning time that was required.
On July 8 1988 I visited FMC's plant in Salisbury where I was disturbed by the gratituous and severe 'stickwork' practised by an employee on the animals as they were unloaded from the trucks into the lairage. This man also repeatedly kicked them about the head and body.
He used his stick on virtually every one of the consignment of pigs I saw unloaded, made routine use of his boot and swore at most of the animals in a way that betrayed his innate hostility.
While this kind of unremitting aggression is not wholly typical, I have often seen callous and brutal treatment of animals on farms, markets and slaughterhouses.
It seems to me that there is a general impatience and resentment at the animals for not expediating their passage to the slaughterer's knife. It is not unusual for animals - uncooperative or not - to be addressed as 'silly cunts', 'dozy bitches' and such like; in other words, in the same way in which women are frequently abused.
At Banbury market in 1988, I saw a haulier repeatedly and viciously kick in the head members of a penload of pigs. His aggression arose out of his own incompetence, as he sought to drive the animals onto his truck.
On February 6 1989, I visited Amberly Foods slaughter plant, Middlesborough, where I saw pigs being slaughtered. It was a new, 'state-of-the-art' plant in which animals were put into enclosed conveyors which drove them several yards onto a set of electrodes that were hanging down into the conveyor. The electrodes stunned the animals. Then, when they came out the other end, they were shackled and 'stuck'.
The conveyance device, being enclosed, held the animals tight; allowing them little room to move up, down or sideways. I was there but an hour when the device broke down and several animals were trapped inside for perhaps two hours while the men sought to fix the device. I saw no concern for these trapped animals. I saw no-one attempt to free them.
My own observations about the slaughter process have been underlined by interviews with slaughtermen I have conducted in Wiltshire, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and North Yorkshire; also by various expert reports I have read - not least the FAWC document referred to above.
Additionally, I have studied several technical reports published by researchers working at the AFRC Institute of Food Research in Langford, Bristol. On May 15 1990, I spent most of a day there, discussing with Clive Daly the institute's work and its findings in regard to UK slaughter practises.
I was particularly disturbed to be told that:
As part of my research into this area, I have made visits to about two dozen farms during the last six years. On two of these farms, I worked alongside the stockmen - at one for two days, at another for a week - so that I might increase my understanding.
I have also visited the annual Smithfield livestock exhibition twice, visited a Milk Marketing Board stud bull farm and another MMB establishment where I saw embryo transfer take place.
As already indicated, I have visited livestock markets, including Thirsk in North Yorkshire, Banbury in Oxford, Guildford in Surrety, Wickham Market in Suffolk and Sturminster Newton in Dorset.
Perhaps my most illuminating experience was when I worked a week (for research purposes) from August 15 1988 at an intensive pig farm. Again, I am barred, under an agreement with the owner, from circulating the name of the establishment. But, again, I can produce tape recordings and other written material clearly supporting the veracity of my account.
The farm - the proprietors had several units - was one of the country's most significant in terms of the young female progenitors it sold to other farms and the volume of 'quality' pig semen it supplied to national artificial inseminaion stations, which then found its way into the country's herds.
The fate of the breeders was procreation without pause. For the female constrained throughout in a variety of tight fitting crates, stalls or crowded group pens, this meant a constant cycle of pregnancies - her young removed three weeks after birth and her almost immediate forced reimpregnation.
But what was so remarkable to me was the crude inefficiency of what I witnessed: the filth and dust, the rough handling of the animals, the dependence on drugs to beat back disease that such systems foster. In charge of the sick bay and all the houses where the piglets were born was a 19 year old.
All in all, I found the regime to be cruel and heartless. The animals were mere units of production whose welfare was of little account.
A leading authority has argued that "To deny the existence of conscious pain perception in mammals is to be totally blind to their non verbal communication and ignorant of basic comparative anatomy and physiology. It is like denying the earth's rotation around the sun. It is that fundamental." (Ref 1)
Sensory pathways in the spinal cord which lead to the brain are identical in man and in all other mammals. We also possess a common peripheral system through which pain sensations are generated. Then again, animals' legs are structurally similar to ours, with arteries and nerves near the surface. There is actually some evidence suggesting that other mammals are more sensitive to pain and sensation perception is proportionately smaller in humans than in all other mammals.
By virtually every other measure - heart rate, body temperature, secretion, build-up and depletion of certain body chemicals - it can be demonstrated that animals react to pain and stress in a manner equivalent to human beings. (Ref 4)
I cannot claim to have any experience of specific farms, markets and slaughterhouses that supply McDonald's food establishments but many of the criticisms contained above can be related, I believe, to British slaughterhouses, markets and pig farms in general.
(29th July 1993)
On 10th July I interviewed Paul Preston at McDonald's Head Office in Finchley. A woman representative of McDonald's was also present. During the course of the interview I asked Paul Preston about the use of dairy cows in the production of burgers. He stated to me that a lot of dairy cows are used in McDonald's around the world and here.
Later on in the interview we were discussing packaging, I asked about the blowing agent used in McDonald's styroform packaging over here, and Mr Preston said that McDonald's used an isopentane derivative.
I went on to ask about the gross volume of packaging material as opposed to the recyclability or biodegradability,. and he said that virtually everything is recyclable. I then asked if it was being recycled and he said no it was not.
I also asked about the criticism of McDonald's by the Advertising Standards Authority, I attach a copy of the April 1991 ASA Report which details the ruling. I asked Mr Preston if he remembered that, he said he did, but that he didn't remember all the exact details. I started to say what the ruling concerned, and at this point the woman representative said that recyclable was the main one (complaint), that it was misleading for the consumer, that they might think it had in fact been recycled when in fact McDonald's were stating recyclability.
references: Full references available here
exhibits: Not applicable/ available
|date signed:||24 July 1993|
Did not appear in court |