Livestock markets are traditional collection points where large numbers of farm animals, such as sheep, cattle, pigs and horses, are bought and sold.
Markets are noisy, confusing and highly stressful places for animals. Pens are often overstocked, and the animals handled roughly, and deprived of food and water.
Public pressure in Britain has led to legislation covering the welfare of animals in markets from unloading on arrival, through to their departure.
It is an offence to permit an unfit animal to be exposed to market, including those likely to give birth at the market. Persons responsible have a legal duty to make sure that injury or unnecessary suffering is not caused to animals.
The legislation also seeks to address rough handling by prohibiting lifting, dragging or inappropriate tying of an animal. The use of excessive force to control an animal is illegal.
The use of sticks, whips, crops and goads is restricted.
Although by no means perfect, a useful legal framework has been established.
Livestock markets are traditional collection points where large numbers of animals are bought and sold. These auction marts are open to the public, and have thereby provided an ideal focus for animal welfare campaigners in Europe. Sheep, cattle, pigs, horses, and in some markets poultry too, are subjected to the hustle and bustle of market day. Markets are noisy, confusing and highly stressful places for animals; sheep especially, are liable to be sold on to other markets, in a bid to reach more profitable prices, so adding to their suffering. They are often packed into overstocked pens, handled roughly, and deprived of food and water.
Public pressure in Britain has led to the introduction of legislation to protect the welfare of animals at market. It has also precipitated a sympathetic tone from Government, whose policy states, Our objective is that animals passing through markets should be treated in a humane and caring way. We are determined that the best possible standards are maintained in markets and by market staff in order to achieve this objective.
This policy has been translated recently into a strategy document for the protection of animal welfare at livestock markets1. This sets out specific tasks to be achieved by those involved in the running of, and rule enforcement at, markets. Whilst welcoming existing legislative measures to protect welfare, campaigners believe that more must be done to enforce the rules fully, and ensure that animal handlers are properly trained and licensed. The Governments strategy document represents official recognition of this, admitting that there is still room for improvement, and listing those areas needing attention as:
Ensuring the competence of staff;
The provision of food and water;
Supervision of loading and unloading;
The use of sticks and goads;
The maintenance of the fabric of the market (especially floors);
The stocking density in pens;
The arrangement of contingency plans for emergencies (for example to deal with unfit or escaped animals).
Although by no means perfect, a useful legal framework has been established. Full compliance with the law is now needed through tougher inspection and enforcement to ensure the proper protection of animal welfare.
The Legal Situation
In Britain, the welfare of animals at markets is protected by the following legislation:
The Welfare of Animals at Markets Order 1990
The Welfare of Animals at Markets (Amendment) Order 1993
The Welfare of Horses at Markets (and Other Places of Sale) Order 1990
This legislation covers the welfare of animals in markets from the moment they are unloaded at arrival, through to their departure. It makes it an offence to permit an unfit animal to be exposed to market, including those animals likely to give birth whilst offered for sale. Persons in charge of animals have a legal duty to make sure that injury or unnecessary suffering is not caused to animals, including exposure to adverse weather conditions. The legislation also seeks to address rough handling by prohibiting lifting, dragging or inappropriate tying of an animal. The Orders legislate against the use of excessive force to control an animal. The use of sticks, whips, crops and goads is restricted to cattle over 6 months old or adult pigs.
Penning & Caging of Animals
Standards for the housing of animals whilst at market are covered by the legislation. Market operators are responsible for ensuring that animals are kept in pens, cages or hutches suitable for the size and species of the animal. Provision for appropriate feeding, watering and bedding, as well as lighting and ventilation is also covered, along with the accommodation for, and treatment of, unfit animals.
Calves, Foals, Orphan Lambs & Goat Kids
Special provisions are made within the legislation for the protection of young calves at market. These ensure that calves under 7 days old or with unhealed navels are not brought for sale, and that the same calves are not repeatedly exposed for sale at markets. Foals must not be exposed to market unless they are at the foot of their dam, and whilst there, the young animal must not be separated from its mother.
The Welfare of Animals at Markets (Amendment) Order 1993 introduced new rules banning the sale at market of orphan lambs and goat kids with an unhealed navel. It also set a maximum 4-hour time limit at market for these vulnerable creatures when older (with healed navels), and insists that dry bedding and draught-free pens are provided.
MAFF, 1998. The 1998 Strategy for the Protection of Animal Welfare at Livestock Markets. Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food, London.