Don't blame the messenger by Andrew Tyler

Solicitor Jamie Foster ('Understand the threat') wants MTJ readers to believe that nothing of substance is to be learnt from Animal Aid's covert investigation of seven red meat slaughterhouses other than that our "tactics have no place in a civilised society". He suggests that our footage reveals no welfare offences of any consequence, despite it showing animals being repeatedly kicked in the head, thrown about and stunned incompetently. One of the seven slaughterhouses was forced to close after its key customer saw the shocking footage and cancelled its contract.

Perhaps more to the point, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) is convinced that Animal Aid's filming reveals "clear breaches of the WASK regulations that have resulted in animal suffering" (http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/board/fsa101004.pdf). Furthermore, the FSA emphatically endorses our call for CCTV to be installed in slaughterhouses a call also backed by the RSPCA, the Soil Association and Compassion in World Farming.

Foster prefers to concentrate on slinging mud at our investigator, whom I know to be a highly professional individual who works within the law. His planting of cameras in the seven randomly selected slaughterhouses was accomplished by means of common trespass a civil matter, rather than a criminal offence.

The unpalatable reality for head-in-the-sand industry cheerleaders such as Foster is that Animal Aid's covert filming which is in the best traditions of investigative journalism has revealed major deficiencies that the official monitoring system failed to detect and, indeed, had no prospect of detecting. That's why, for instance, ABP in Sturminster Newton reports that "dramatic improvements" in welfare procedures were introduced directly as a result of our investigation. Part of its improvements package includes the installation of CCTV cameras.

Meanwhile, Bristol University is using our footage to train vets and Soil Association inspectors; and industry, government agencies and veterinary bodies are engaged in ongoing discussions to grapple with the issues raised by our evidence. There is also the real prospect of the FSA imposing financial and other penalties on abattoirs that fail to learn the lessons implicit in our investigation.

Blaming the messenger won't work. Mr Foster will learn, sooner or later, that he sells the industry short when he pretends that the problem is Animal Aid rather than what Animal Aid has revealed.

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