Letter: Animal welfare in the dock

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The Independent Online
Sir: Our veterinary practice has been involved with the inspection of Banbury market (report, 30 May) for many years, and whilst it would not be true to say there are never problems, the standard of animal welfare is generally good.

The sow "squashing her snout under the bottom bar" may well have been sniffing curiously at the "yellow muck-ridden puddle", but this does not imply she was desperately thirsty, as all the pig pens at Banbury market have water supplied through nipple drinkers, which the pigs are used to using on the farms from which they come.

The fact that some pigs let out "sudden piercing shrieks" when unloaded from the lorry certainly does not mean they were in pain - as anyone who has worked with pigs knows, sudden piercing shrieks are a normal pig communication. The pigs "slumped awkwardly in their crates, apparently admitting defeat" could equally be described as resting quietly.

Cruelty to animals can never be condoned, but it would be surprising if, over four years, at 36 markets, some evidence of inappropriate handling of animals was not found. As your report itself makes clear, cases of cruelty or neglect of animals at markets are dealt with by the courts, and often result in substantial fines.

D A SHEPHERD

West Bar Veterinary Hospital

Banbury, Oxfordshire

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