Management at Dalehead Foods in Linton has admitted an incident in which 2 live pigs were put into scalding water at a meat-processing plant in Cambridgeshire. They have sacked the worker responsible and explained that “pigs had been put into the water tank without being properly slaughtered on 2 occasions” (Meat Trades Journal, 13 October 2006).
Management at Dalehead Foods in Linton has admitted an incident in which 2 live pigs were put into scalding water at a meat-processing plant in Cambridgeshire. They have sacked the worker responsible and explained that “pigs had been put into the water tank without being properly slaughtered on 2 occasions” (Meat Trades Journal, 13 October 2006). A spokesman added: “In May Dalehead Foods was obliged to suspend and retrain an employee who had not followed mandatory procedures at its site at Linton, Cambridgeshire. Following the report of a further breach this month by the same employee Dalehead Foods invoked disciplinary proceedings, the outcome of which was the termination of the employee’s contract”.
The explanation continued: “Further investigation confirmed that these incidents are isolated. Dalehead Foods is committed to the highest standards of animal welfare”.
A spokesman for the RSPCA confirmed that a complaint had been lodged and said an inspector would be visiting the abattoir.
It seems odd that the RSPCA, a registered charity, is undertaking, without relevant explanation, policing that should be the function of the Meat Hygiene Service, which is charged with the animals’ welfare in meat plants and is paid for by levies raised from the industry; moreover, the MHS, which reports to the Food Standards Agency and DEFRA, is staffed with vets and meat inspectors specialized and trained for the relevant tasks. Poultry and pigs provide carcases with skin on but without feathers and hair, which are removed by immersion in “scalding” water (actually it may be at about 50 to 55°C, regarded as adequate to loosen the feathers and hair and to kill off pathogenic bacteria). Pigs would be put on rollers in the scalding tank. If they were alive, the hot water might enter their lungs and guts and compromise hygiene as well as heightening the cruelty.
In the deliberations over the Animal Welfare Bill (for England and Wales) the RSPCA has been foremost in seeking a duty of care stipulation on all handlers and keepers of animals (but not rigorous enough for the likes of us), which could extend to increased rights of entry to premises by accredited RSPCA officers. There is even talk of including RSPCA inspectors in the policing powers of issuing on-the-spot fines and of making arrests. We have sought powers of entry for local councils or their nominees to premises holding collections of animals (kept for any purposes), whether or not they are inspected or supervised by the State Veterinary Service, DEFRA, or the Home Office. (We use the word premises to comprehend buildings, fenced spaces and common land).
We appreciate comments on these issues from people with relevant experience. The Government is recognizing the importance and enlistment of NGOs and charities in roles of consultation and supervision, but has to recognize that these services are mobilizing voluntary bodies struggling to attain the financial stability and competence that such responsibilities demand.