Animal rights claims refuted by Defra

Defra has denied a claim by an animal rights activists group it has been “stripped” of prosecution powers.

Animal Aid said its year-long campaign had led to Defra’s prosecution powers being shifted to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The animal rights group had been angered by a lack of prosecutions after it revealed alleged instances of animal abuse at abattoirs.

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.”

However, Defra said the move to the CPS was part of the coalition government’s efficiency initiatives and had been on the cards for a while.

A Defra spokesperson said: “This is complete nonsense. Arrangements to move Defra’s prosecution function to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) began at the beginning of this year as part of the Government’s efficiency review.

“On 12 July 2011 the Attorney General and Defra’s Secretary of State made a statement to Parliament concerning the transfer of Defra’s prosecution function to the CPS. Quite clearly this ministerial decision has nothing to do with the conduct of any individual cases.”

Most recently, Animal Aid released secretly obtained footage at the Cheale Meats plant in Essex. It claimed investigators at the plant filmed slaughtermen stubbing out cigarettes on pigs faces, animals being punched and goads being used on animals faces, allegations disputed by Cheale Meats owners Elmkirk Ltd.

Extracts of the footage sent to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) led to the licence of one of the slaughtermen identified in the footage being revoked, while another slaughterman featured in the footage was in possession of a provisional licence, now expired and the FSA said it would not be renewed.