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One of the injured calves.

A livestock haulier who transported 35 calves from a farm in Dorset to a slaughterhouse in Wiltshire has been found guilty of causing them unnecessary suffering.

John Edward Pritchard, aged 47,  from Shaftesbury, appeared before Weymouth Magistrates Court on Wednesday 5 April for sentencing having previously pleaded guilty to two charges under the Animal Health Act 1981. The prosecution was brought by Dorset Council following investigation by their Trading Standards team.

The court heard that on 3 November 2021, Mr Pritchard collected the group of calves from a farm near Sherborne in his double-decked livestock trailer. This trailer was only designed to carry sheep when both decks were in use, because there was insufficient headroom on the lower deck for calves to stand. Pritchard transported the calves on the two-hour journey to a slaughterhouse in Wiltshire.

When he arrived the calves were unloaded by a member of staff who immediately noticed that the calves on the lower deck had injuries on their backs where they had bumped against the roof supports of the upper deck during the journey. Some of these injuries were up to 10cm long and an examination of the carcasses after slaughter revealed deep bruising. The official vet at the slaughterhouse examined the calves and concluded that they had been caused unnecessary suffering.

CCTV footage of the calves being unloaded was shown to the court and this also revealed that the ramp angle for the upper deck was far too steep for calves to safely walk down. The maximum permitted angle for such a ramp is 20 degrees but Mr Pritchard’s was over 40 degrees. As a result, the CCTV footage showed the calves stumbling and falling down the ramp.

The court heard that to transport the calves safely and legally Mr Pritchard should have only used the lower deck on the trailer with the upper deck folded away. This would have meant doing two journeys to the slaughterhouse but instead it was deemed that he decided to put profit before animal welfare.

Mr Pritchard was given an 18 month conditional discharge and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £6,495 plus a £22 court surcharge – a total of £6,517.

Councillor Laura Beddow, Dorset Council’s Portfolio Holder for Culture, Communities and Customer Services: ‘Our Trading Standards team work with all people involved in the livestock industry to ensure the welfare of the animals in their care is their priority. Where basic welfare standards are compromised, formal action can and does follow.

‘All livestock transporters have a clear responsibility to ensure that whilst the animals are in their care they are protected from harm. Where there is evidence of unnecessary suffering we will intervene and consider formal enforcement action.’

For health and welfare advice on keeping and transporting farmed animals or to report an animal welfare problem Dorset residents can call the Trading Standards animal health line on 01305 224475, or email Trading Standards directly.

A still from the CCTV footage from the outside of the slaughterhouse in Wiltshire, showing the animals being removed from the vehicle.
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