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Long Distance Slaughter Criticised by Bridport Farmer and NFU

Cow

6:34am 22nd May 2014
(Updated 11:19am 22nd May 2014)

A Dorset farmer has sparked a debate over animal welfare after refusing to send his TB infected cattle on a 170 mile trip to be slaughtered.

Kevin Wallbridge, who runs a farm in Hooke near Bridport, was told by the Animal Health Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) that his cows would have to go to West Wales to be killed.

But the farmer refused saying the trip would cause unnecessary stress on the animals which have all contracted TB.

Mr Wallbridge told us the trip is too long;

"My worry is, the cows will be stood on a lorry for about 5 hours to get from West Dorset to West Wales which I don't think is fair. An animal isn't used to standing up that long, especially in the condition they are, some are in calf and or heavily producing milk.

When they're producing milk they're using a lot of energy and they need more time to lie down and for them to be comfortable because they were working very hard for me producing milk. That's what's made me really unhappy. As a farmer I'm not happy to see them go that far anyway."

He says he's arranged to have the 14 cows shot on his own land next week to save them the stressful, uncomfortable trip to West Wales.

Animal welfare regulations stipulate animals should not be taken more than 200 miles to be killed.

Kevin says he'd prefer his cows killed closer to home;

"I would've been much happier for them to go to a more local slaughterhouse, I know there's one contracted in Taunton. I said to the AHVLA that I would not let the animals off the farm to go to West Wales, but they could go to Taunton."

The Animal Health Veterinary Laboratories Agency - Defra's organisation managing the Bovine TB operation in cattle - said animal welfare is of the upmost importance when they're travelling to abattoirs.

"Animals unfit to travel, including those in the later stages of pregnancy, would normally be slaughtered on-farm following a risk assessment undertaken by an AHVLA vet. "

Spokesperson for the National Farmers Union in Dorset Ian Johnson said the farmers and animals themselves have been completely neglected on the whole issue of cattle slaughter due to TB;

"The big casualty seems to be animal welfare and the worst affected species are cattle and badgers. This whole conversation should really to go back to what it's really all about, which is animal welfare and stopping animals from suffering, and trying to something about a disease that if you don't do something, is going to cause more suffering."

Ian said DEFRA were cutting corners on animal welfare to make a buck or two;

"I believe, but I don't know, various different places where they send these cattle to be slaughtered pay different rates and apparently they can get a better rate by going to other places rather than local. It would seem they're cutting corners at the expense of animal welfare."

The AHVLA said they select abattoirs that offer the best value for money;

"This cost to the taxpayer is partly offset by the value of the carcase, a sum paid by the abattoir, and as AHVLA is required to achieve best value-for-money for the taxpayer, it selects the abattoir which is likely to provide the best financial return, whilst also ensuring that journey times to slaughter strictly adhere to welfare during transport regulations.

Animals unfit to travel, including those in the later stages of pregnancy, would normally be slaughtered on-farm following a risk assessment undertaken by an AHVLA vet.

"Cattle owners have the option of choosing not to receive compensation and to arrange slaughter privately. In such cases the cost of slaughter falls to the owner, but is offset by their retaining any salvage value provided by the carcases."

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