witness statement

name: Andrew Tyler
section: Animals & Packaging
for: The Defence
experience: Journalist


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.


  • I have been a journalist for nearly 30 years, the last 10 specialising - to an increasing degree - in matters relating to the ethical treatment of animals.

  • My experience of how animals are exploited and inhumanely treated in a variety of settings is extensive.

  • Major articles I have written on these issues have appeared in such journals as The Independent, The Guardian, Evening Standard, New Statesman and Society and Time Out.

  • I have given public talks on the issue and acted as consultant or served as expert interviewee for the This Week television programme, and the Food Programme on BBC Radio 4.

  • I have breifed MPs such as Sir Richard Body (former chairman of the House of Commmons Agriculture Committee) on matters related to pig slaughter and pig swill farming; and framed a series of parliamentary questions about animal slaughter for Chris Mullin MP.

  • The Farm and Food Society requested and recevied a briefing from me in July 1989, in regard to proposed amendments to the slaughter regulations.

  • On the basis of my writing and campaigning I received the 1990 Animal Award 'for his outstanding contribution to the animals cause' from the country's leading national welfare and animal rights organisations: The Vegetarian Society, The Vegan Society, Animal Aid and Compassion in World Farming.

  • A year earlier I was presented with the Peter Wilson Award 'for outstanding journalism exposing the cruelty of bloodsports' by the League Against Cruel Sports.

  • I have written about zoos, hunting, the fur trade and animal experiments - having visited approporiate establishments, read relevant specialist material and interviewed relevant authorities on the subjects - but my main area of speciality and concern is the inhumane treatment of 'livestock' animals in the farm, market and slaughterhouse setting.

  • I have written several major articles on these inter-related subjects - some of which have attracted enormous public interest and sympathy.

  • An article for The Independent newspaper on March 13 1989, called 'Slaughterhouse Tales', attracted a record postbag for the newspaper, was discussed and investigated by the government's Farm Animal Welfare Council and was reprinted in the USA, Australia and Ireland.

  • An article for the (now defunct) Sunday Correspondent newspaper about the intensive farming of pigs - called 'Pigs in the Machine' - also attracted a record postbag and was the subject of a debate in the House of Lords.

  • Between early 1988 and the end of 1992, I was researching and writing a novel whose setting is a factory pig farm. This also required a great deal of on-the-spot investigation.

  • More recently (January to March 1993), I undertook an investigation of five UK livestock markets on behalf of the national campaign group Animal Aid, to see whether the principal welfare legislation - the 1990 Welfare of Animals at Market Order - was being observed.

    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.

    Full cv:
    Available for this witness

    full statement:

    I now summarise something of what I have observed.


    On June 21 1988 I visited a south of England slaughterhouse and saw a batch of pigs being slaughtered. It was part of the written agreement with the proprietors that the name of the establishment not be published or revealed: and I have kept to my part of that arrangement ever since. (Although, for the court, I can produce audio tapes and written interview transcriptions to demonstrate that the visit did take place as described in the 'Slaughterhouse Tales' article in The Independent).

    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:

    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'.

    Farms and Markets

    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.

    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.

    Do Animals Feel Pain?

    But does any of this matter? Do animals feel pain?

    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.

    supplemetary statement:

    (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
    status: Did not appear in court

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