One in 300 animal welfare complaints on UK farms leads to prosecution – study | Animal wellbeing

Only one in 300 animal welfare complaints on UK farms have resulted in a prosecution in the past four years, with half of the farms complained of not even being inspected, according to an analysis.

A report by Animal Equality and the Animal Law Foundation also says less than three in 100 of the estimated 291,000 farms in the UK had an annual inspection by a public body between 2018 and 2021.

Charities said there was less than one inspector for every 205 farms, and the ‘risk-based’ regime means ‘high risk’ farms – those that have been the subject of a complaint , for example – are prioritized, but even they are not. always inspected.

Abigail Penny, Executive Director of Animal Equality UK, said: “Non-compliance is rampant, repeatedly highlighted by secret investigations and now reinforced by the data revealed in this report.

“Pigs have their tails docked, cows unable to walk or stand and hens crammed into overcrowded cages, but farms usually get little more than a slap on the wrist. These results are disturbing and should alarm any consumer. Animal abusers really need to be held accountable. For the moment, this is obviously not the case. »

Of the farms that were inspected after a complaint, on-site non-compliance was identified at just under a third, according to the report, titled the enforcement problem, which was compiled using data collected from public bodies. Like lawsuits, the use of other law enforcement measures was rare, with 144 notices of improvement, care or compliance issued in 2020, while local authorities received 6,466 complaints about the welfare of farm animals.

The authors found that even when investigations by animal welfare organizations such as Animal Equality, Animal Aid, Compassion in World Farming, and Open Cages revealed suspected evidence of illegal activity or substandard practices, the more often they have gone unpunished. Of 65 such briefings issued between 2016 and 2021, about seven in 10 did not result in any subsequent formal enforcement action, they found.

The report says that with more than 180 government agencies tasked with monitoring and enforcing the law, including local authorities, “inconsistencies and confusion arose. The disjointed nature of regulation and enforcement has allowed for a lack of continuity, enforcement and accountability.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is responsible for overseeing policy implementation in England, and devolved governments are responsible in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But in England, Scotland and Wales, day-to-day enforcement is in the hands of the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and local authorities.

Edie Bowles, lawyer and executive director of the Animal Law Foundation, said: “The problem exists in all areas of animal law. What makes it particularly shocking for farm animals is not just the scale of the problem, but the constant proclamations that the UK has some of the highest animal welfare standards on farms. and the slaughterhouses of the world.

“If these standards exist only on paper and are not followed in practice, the value of these laws is at best questioned and at worst redundant.”

The APHA said: “We take breaches of animal welfare legislation very seriously and investigate every allegation that is brought to our attention.”

The Scottish government also said it took animal welfare very seriously, while the Welsh government said it was a priority and referred to the APHA control scheme.

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