Labour peer accused over farm cruelty
Sunday Times

Gerard Tubb, Jonathan Leake and Nicholas Rufford
A SENIOR 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.
Lord 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 inspections.
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