Welfare heads urge rapid response to animal cruelty

Animal welfare bosses have urged people with evidence of animal welfare breaches to act promptly and inform the authorities.

The RSPCA, speaking after the recent Animal Aid exposé allegedly filmed breaches of welfare regulations during a six-month period, said any evidence should be made available to the authorities as quickly as possible.

Animal Aid filmed alleged breaches of welfare in two businesses, AC Hopkins in Somerset and JV Richards in Cornwall, between January and June. However, it only released its evidence to the media and the authorities towards the end of August, prompting criticism from both the meat industry and the Meat Hygiene Service.

In a statement, the RSPCA said: “Whenever animal suffering is detected, it is vital that information is passed on to the relevant organisation – be it the local authority, Meat Hygiene Service or even the RSPCA – as quickly as possible in order to ensure that, if there is suffering, it is not prolonged unnecessarily.

“Legitimate investigations to expose animal cruelty can be vital in exposing welfare problems, and the relevant authorities and groups, such as the RSPCA, would always welcome the opportunity to discuss with them any cases of suspected abuse and neglect.”

Animal Aid denied any delay in releasing the footage, filmed between January and June and released to the authorities at the end of August. Andrew Tyler, a director with Animal Aid, told MTJ that they needed time to compile all the evidence to ensure action was taken and the evidence was released as soon as “we were ready”.

Meanwhile, meat hygiene bosses have said they are considering legal action against a plant that was the subject of recent secret filming by animal activists.

Animal Aid filmed a number of alleged animal welfare breaches at the AC Hopkins plant in Somerset (see MTJ, 4 September). Now, a spokesman for the MHS said: “The evidence to support a potential prosecution of the operator and/or the slaughterman is currently being considered.”

An earlier statement from the MHS said the plant’s slaughterman had already had his licence suspended, and that it would remain suspended until a decision was made to either lift the suspension or revoke his licence.

The statement added that the MHS had also been in contact with JV Richards in Cornwall, another plant filmed by Animal Aid, and had identified a number of areas for improvement. The statement said: “The areas for improvement include changing the layout of the stunning pen to improve effectiveness, shortening the stun to stick time, and avoiding any animal distress originating from animals trying to escape from the stunning pen.”