Shaftesbury haulier John Pritchard caused ‘unnecessary suffering’ to calves

A SHAFTESBURY livestock haulier who transported 35 calves from a Dorset farm to a slaughterhouse in Wiltshire has been found guilty of causing them unnecessary suffering.

John Edward Pritchard, of Shaftesbury, appeared before Weymouth Magistrates Court on Wednesday (April 5) for sentencing having previously pleaded guilty to two charges under the Animal Health Act 1981.

The prosecution was brought by Dorset Council following an investigation by their Trading Standards team.

The court heard that on November 3, 2021, Pritchard collected a group of calves from a farm near Sherborne in his double-decked livestock trailer.

The trailer was designed to carry sheep when both decks were in use, due to insufficient headroom on the lower deck for calves to stand.

However, Pritchard transported the calves on a two-hour journey to a slaughterhouse in Wiltshire.

When he arrived, the calves were unloaded by a member of staff who immediately noticed the calves on the lower deck had injuries on their backs where they had bumped against the roof supports of the upper deck during the journey.

Some of these injuries were up to 10cm long and an examination of the carcasses after slaughter revealed deep bruising.

WARNING: Some viewers may find the video distressing

The official vet at the slaughterhouse examined the calves and concluded they had been caused unnecessary suffering.

CCTV footage of the calves being unloaded was shown to the court and this also revealed that the ramp angle for the upper deck was far too steep for calves to safely walk down.

The maximum permitted angle for such a ramp is 20 degrees, but Pritchard’s was over 40 degrees. As a result, the CCTV footage showed the calves stumbling and falling down the ramp.

The court was told the calves suffered injuries during the journey Picture Dorset Council

The court was told the calves suffered injuries during the journey. Picture: Dorset Council

The court heard that to transport the calves safely and legally, Pritchard should have only used the lower deck on the trailer with the upper deck folded away.

This would have meant doing two journeys to the slaughterhouse but instead it was deemed that he decided to put profit before animal welfare.

Pritchard was given an 18-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £6,495 plus a £22 court surcharge – a total of £6,517.

Cllr Laura Beddow, Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for culture, communities and customer services, said: “Our Trading Standards team work with all people involved in the livestock industry to ensure the welfare of the animals in their care is their priority.

“Where basic welfare standards are compromised, formal action can and does follow.

“All livestock transporters have a clear responsibility to ensure that whilst the animals are in their care they are protected from harm. Where there is evidence of unnecessary suffering we will intervene and consider formal enforcement action.”

For health and welfare advice on keeping and transporting farmed animals or to report an animal welfare problem in Dorset, residents can call the Trading Standards animal health line on 01305 224475.

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I am the editor in chief of Blackmore Vale media, which includes the New Blackmore Vale, New Stour & Avon, Salisbury & Avon Gazette and the Purbeck Gazette, having been a reporter for some 20 years. In my spare time, I am a festival lover, with a particular focus on Glastonbury. I live in Somerset with my wife and two children.