Day Nine of Closing Speech for the defence

31st Oct 96 - Day 291 of the Trial

Thursday, 31 October, 1996. Day 291.

The day began with Ms Steel raising the matter of pigs reared in the USA for McDonald's products. Neither side had called any specific evidence in relation to this matter, but the previous day in court Mr Rampton QC had asserted that while it was true in the UK that the majority of pig meat used by McDonald's came from pigs which spent their entire lives inside, he claimed that it was untrue for the USA.

Ms Steel asserted Mr Rampton was wrong, and reminded the court that Mr Gomez Gonzales (Manager of Meat Products of the International Purchasing Dept of McDonald's Corporation) had agreed that approx 60% of pigs reared in the USA were housed intensively in total confinement. He had also stated that McDonald's bought pigs from the general market and that the company had no specifications that pigs had to be raised outdoors.

Ms Steel then continued with the evidence of McDonald's expert witness Dr Gregory in relation to his visit to Bowes slaughterhouse (McDonald's UK pig meat suppliers). Dr Gregory had calculated that the current used to stun the pigs was 0.45 amps. This did not comply with the Codes of Practice state that for head only stunning (the method used at Bowes), the current should be a minimum of 1.3 amps otherwise the pig is unlikely to be stunned effectively.

Mr. Bowes had claimed that Dr. Gregory's figure was wrong, because he had not taken into account the fact that Bowes sprayed the piglets with water before stunning which he said improved the conductivity. However Dr Alan Long (who gave expert evidence for the defence about rearing and slaughter of cattle and pigs), had made reference to the fact that if the pigs were wet the electricity could track around the body, using the water as a shorter path to ground, rather than going through the head and causing an effective stun.

Dr. Gregory had said that with a neck application there is a risk that the pig would be paralysed without rendering it unconconsious. Ms Steel had asked Dr Gregory, "..based on your scientific knowledge would you consider that practice to have caused some amount of pain." He had replied ,"I would have expected, based on our experience, that a proportion of pigs would not be instantaneously stunned. They would get the current through the neck instead, it could cause them pain, it would certainly cause them distress."

Ms Steel talked about the occasion that Mr. Bowes, when giving evidence, had asserted that Dr. Gregory's figures were wrong. Mr Bowers had relied on figures from documents claimed to be from the Meat and Livestock Commission. On providing the documents, he had stated, ".. on behalf of the Meat and Livestock Commission, I would like to apologise for their computer, it described pigs as sheep on here." Ms Steel said that since Mr Bowes had not prepared the document himself, his evidence relating to it was all hearsay and therefore there was no evidence that it was about pigs rather than sheep, and it should therefore be disregarded.

Ms Steel went on to talk about some of the other short-comings at the Bowes plant. She said that Dr Gregory had admitted himself that workers would slow down while inspections were being made, so the conditions Dr Gregory witnessed were likely to be the situation at its best.

Ms Steel referred to Dr. Longs' criticism regarding the stocking density of 0.52 of a square metre for each pig. He had said that that placed an extraordinary constraint on the animal and frustrated its natural tendencies. He had concluded that it was a very serious welfare constraint on the pigs.

Ms Steel talked about the evidence regarding dry sow stalls and the effects of their use on the sow's welfare. Mr. Long had said that the main problem with the dry sow stalls was that the animals cannot turn around, contrary to Farm Animal Welfare Councils 'Five Freedoms' code.

Making a comparison about the life-span of the pigs on Bowes farm and those not being slaughtered for meat, Ms Steel reminded the court that pigs can live into their twenties, but are usually slaughtered at about 26 weeks old.

Ms Steel proceeded to examine the issue of transportation to a slaughter house. The defendents had asked Dr. Long's opinion regarding the long journeys, deprivation of food and water, temporarily housing, handling and resultant stress on the animals. Dr. Long had replied, "..they are certainly frightened to the point of going to terror. It is a completely alien environment."

Dr. Long had been asked whether cattle always show the fear that they are feeling. He had answered, "pigs are more like human beings, if they are stressed they will cry out and make a noise and fuss. Cattle and other animals of that type are herd animals. Their attitude is that they do not want to show they are disabled because they will be picked off by their predators, they tend to go dull, they tend to be less demonstrative if they are suffering."

Ms Steel referred to Dr. Longs appraisal of Mr. Gonzales claim that when animals were eating, or in the case of poultry - laying eggs, that it was a sign that they must be happy. Dr. Long had said, "that does not tie up at all, many fat, apparently overfed human beings, are very unhappy. Some people and animals eat because they are unhappy. He said that basically that is because there is not anything else for them to do. Ms Steel said that was common sense, "it is just ridiculous for the assertion to be made, if an animals is eating it must be happy, or, if an animal is laying an egg it must be happy. Obviously we would say that that casts doubt on Mr. Gonzales' ability to judge whether or not the animals are suffering."

Ms Steel then proceeded to Dr Long's evidence about the welfare problems for cattle arising from the dairy and beef industry. He had referred to the distress caused to cows and calves when they were being separated. Some are separated at a very young age, just a day or two old. He said that cows were very maternal animals and that distress in the mother cow could last for several days.

He had related that the output from a modern British dairy cow is about 5,500 litres a year. This was twice what it would have been just after world war two. There were welfare implications as a result of the increased amount of milk that they are producing. By way of example he said that a suckler cow would produce about three litres of milk for a calf, which is what the calf needs, whereas with a dairy cow having her milk taken for humans would be yielding up to 30 litres, ten times as much as it would be in nature.

Dr. Long had noted that a frequent consequence of this was mastitis. He said that there are about 35 cases of mastitis for every 100 cows in a British herd. It is a very prevalent disease, which was termed a production disease. In other words a disease brought on by the excessive pressure of production or over production. He said it is a very painful disease. He referred to the fact that because of the amount of the milk that they are having to produce there is an enormous strain on the udder, which means that it may drop and it means that that would mean that the cow could not walk properly and therefore may become lame.

When asked about whether a cow would continue to give milk when unhappy, stressed or unwell he said, "we are dealing here with a survival mechanism. We are talking about giving birth and producing milk, many other systems will be suffering before a cow or any other animal for that matter abandons those. That is a survival mechanism which will go on even if she is emaciated and in poor condition."

Dr. Long had said that bad husbandry and bad stockmanship in markets (where many of the cows used in McDonald's products are sourced) was more or less a day to day occurrence. He had said that you would see distressed animals being pushed unnecessarily, and that with good stockmanship sticks and goads would normally not be required. He added, "They are trying to put too much through, trying to do too much business at the expense of the animals' welfare."

Ms Steel moved on to evidence of Mr. Lyman who was raised on a fourth generation farm and ranch in Montana. He had been the owner of the Lyman Ranch and Cattle company from 1965 to 1983, which was one of the top five percent in size, and had a great deal of experience of the cattle rearing and slaughter industry. He stated he had visited thousands of different farms, and met with thousands of different farmers while he was a senior lobbist for the US National Farmers Union between 1987 and 1992.

Mr Lyman had also said that he had been to hundreds of slaughter houses and probably as many as 50 processing plants. They had included companies that supplied McDonald's and he said that the slaughterhouses that he had visited which supplied McDonald's were basically typical of the industry as a whole. He had referred specifically to one he did business with, Monfort in Colorado. He said that he believed he visited about 50 of the approx 175 slaughterhouses which supplied McDonald's at that time, McDonald's.

Ms Steel touched briefly on some of the concerns that Mr Lyman had expressed over the enviromental impact of modern cattle production methods; the erosion of the top soil, the contamination of water supplies, the loss of biodiversity etc. He spoke of the unnatural feedstuffs used to obtain a high protein - low cost diet. He said, " in the United States, 14 percent of all cows by volume, are basically ground up and fed back to other cows." He concluded, "..the animal husbandry practised today is only concerned with economics. The comfort and welfare of the animal is only important if there is the chance that the animal will fail to achieve profitability." He had then added, "..for many years I believed that the ends justified the means, today I regard that the methods used in most animal production as barbaric and inhumane."

He had gone on to give examples of the methods which he considered to be barbaric and inhumane; talking about cutting the horn off without antiseptic, castrating them with no regard to the pain, branding them, putting them in confined spaces, putting them on unnatural diets and transporting them great distances etc.

Ms Steel then talked about the fact that evidence had been given to the effect that most beef supplied to McDonald's in the US was from feedlots. She added that the barbaric practice of dehorning only takes place so that the animals can be crammed in to feedlots and be fattened up quicker at less cost in order to make more profits for the meat industry. Dehorning is not commonly used on range cattle.

Mr Lyman had talked about the slaughter process and had said, "..there is in doubt that those animals going on to the kill floor know they are going to die and they are not pleased." He had continued by saying that cattle did see the other cattle being killed and he said that with all the gore that is on the floors it is impossible to shield the animals from what is in front of them and was going to happen. He said, "What I am talking about is the absolute standard of the industry, what it is about, is get them in as quickly as possible, kill them as quickly as possible and the idea of humane slaughter absolutely does not exist." He concluded, "There is no doubt that those animals when they went to slaughter were terrified and would do anything within their power to escape. No doubt about it."

Mr Morris commented on whether there was any effect effective monitoring or interest from McDonald's about animal welfare. He started on the evidence of Mr Keith Kenny (McDonald's Quality Assurance Supervisor). He had admitted to never visiting any pig farms or beef farms, and neither had anyone else in his department as far as he was aware.

He stated that McDonald's had instructed McKeys that goads should not be used. However, he was not aware that Midland Meat, who supply McKeys with beef for McDonald's, used goads at the slaughterhouse. Mr Kenny said that McKeys had not told him that some of their suppliers were using goads. So, Mr Morris concluded, he was relying on the suppliers to impose any relevant concerns of McDonald's or just generally to be concerned about animal welfare, but he was not being informed of the virtually the one thing which seemed to be emanating from McDonald's as a concern, which was the use of goads.

Mr Morris concluded, "So we cannot really trust the suppliers which was their one line of defence. If one of the abattoirs was using goads, he would expect McKey to stop it. He said they have never looked into employing anybody at all to specifically to look after animal welfare.

Mr Morris reminded the court that Ms Steel had cross examined Mr. Oakley on the issue of monitoring. She had asked "so your animal welfare policy is in fact just a policy so comply with the laws of the various countries in which you operate." Mr Oakley had answered that was correct. Mr Oakley had added, that the way McDonald's would get involved in terms of animal welfare is through the quality assurance department.

Mr Morris ended the afternoon with evidence from Mr Oakley to the effect that McDonald's employed nobody to check on the welfare status of the animals raised and slaughtered by their suppliers. The first time anything was put in writing about animal welfare was 1993 with the publication of a customer factsheet on the issue. He concluded that McDonald's was indifferent to the suffering of animals, profit came first and animal welfare is only a public relations matter.

Ms Steel finished the day by reminding the court that Mr Walker of McKey Foods Ltd (sole supplier of McDonald's UK beef and pork products) had given evidence (in 1995) that McDonald's UK used "2,777,832 pounds of pork every year, which is equivalent to 180,378 pigs which is 3,765 pigs per week." He said that McDonald's UK used 59,751,272 pounds of beef every year, "equivalent to 331,951 head of cattle, equivalent to 6,915 head per week." He said "the total UK beef kill is 3,120,000. Of our beef usage 76.9% last year was of UK origin, therefore, 76% of the total UK kill is 255,270 head or 8.1% of the total beef slaughterings in the United Kingdom." Ms Steel also reminded the court that Mr Walker had agreed that "as a result of the meat industry the suffering of animals is inevitable".

Note:Due to the unavailability of the official court transcripts at this time, this report has not been checked for accuracy against the transcripts but was complied from extensive notes taken during the day by volunteers.
See also: The report for the previous day
The report for the following day
and, for summaries of all the key evidence given during the trial;
Trial News 1, Trial News 2, and Trial News 3