Labour peer accused over farm cruelty Gerard Tubb, Jonathan Leake and Nicholas Rufford
member of the government is facing calls for his resignation after animals on a
farm in which he has a big financial stake were maltreated and abused.
Carter, the government's chief whip in the House of Lords, is part-owner of a
Wiltshire farm in which hundreds of animals were allegedly crammed illegally
into tiny pens where they had no room to turn around or lie down. Others are
said to have died through heat exhaustion and related conditions. Pigs that
became ill were sometimes beaten to death by staff with iron bars or had their
heads swung against a wall, according to sworn statements from farm workers.
The revelations are embarrassing for a government that has portrayed itself
as championing animal welfare. They also come at a sensitive time - another vote
is due tomorrow on hunting legislation.
Carter attends cabinet meetings and
advises Tony Blair on farming. He was Labour's agriculture spokesman and piloted
legislation on protecting farm animals through the Lords. In statements issued
through the Cabinet Office and through his solicitors, Carter said government
inspectors who visited the farm found no evidence of cruelty. It has now been
established that farm inspections were announced in advance, giving staff the
opportunity to deceive inspectors and cover up mistreatment of animals. ..... ..
The workers' allegations of maltreatment are supported by David Berkley, a
livestock consultant who visited the farm monthly from 1992 until July 2000 to
assess the condition of pregnant sows. He recorded in detail how animals
remained in the same stall from one month to the next.
"I refused to work
for them any more because the conditions on the farm were so awful. Most of the
pigs were infested with lice and they were being kept in sow stalls, which is
illegal," he said. The same workers also allege that thousands of pigs were kept
in "sweat boxes" - concrete enclosures with no bedding and little ventilation
designed to keep the animals in sauna-like conditions to make them fatten
faster. The boxes were outlawed in 1995.
Donald McDonald-Reade, one of the
farm workers, was so shocked by the conditions that he took photographs of heaps
of pig corpses. He said in a statement: "The pigs had died from suffocation due
to lack of ventilation."
Some sweat boxes were modified to include vents
soon after this incident, a change approved by veterinary inspectors. Farm
workers say, however, the vents were not always opened.
The farm had
supplied Sainsbury until January 1996 when the supermarket cancelled its
contract citing "supply problems" after an inspection of the premises. Tesco
cancelled its contract in June 2001. In 1998 the company sought accreditation
for one of its two piggeries with the government-backed farm assurance scheme
which sets out strict welfare standards but it was initially rejected following
Although it was subsequently admitted, further checks led to
its being twice suspended, in July 2000 and February 2001 and then thrown out
for good in June 2001. The case has exposed glaring loopholes in laws designed
to protect farm animals from cruelty. Council inspectors and government vets
inspected the farms on three occasions last year after being tipped off about
cruel conditions. Each time they gave farm staff advance warning of up to a day
before their visits.
Brodie Wernham, another farm worker, said he was told
to change records so it looked as though pigs had only recently been moved into
sow stalls. "If you had put a sow in there two months before, you would change
the card so it stated she'd only been put in there that morning," he said.
In the same sworn statement Wernham described how sick pigs might be beaten
to death, have their throats slit or be swung against a wall, rather than be
humanely killed. A report on this subject by Gerard Tubb will be broadcast
throughout today on Sky News
March 17 02