Six men sentenced for animal welfare offences
The business operator of a slaughterhouse in Chester and six men who worked there have been sentenced for animal welfare offences including, in some cases, causing avoidable pain, distress or suffering to animals
G and GB Hewitt Ltd operates a slaughterhouse at The Abattoir, Huxley, Chester where cattle and sheep are slaughtered. In addition to the company itself, the defendants, all slaughtermen, are:
Mark Lee Hewitt, 34 from Huxley in Cheshire
Stephen Mayren, 66, of Poulton-le-Fylde in Lancashire
Joseph Anthony Arden, 66, from Nantwich, Cheshire.
Matthew David Arden, 32 from Whitchurch in Cheshire.
Gerald Mark Hewitt, 59, from Tarporley in Cheshire.
Paul May, 49, from Whitchurch in Cheshire.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) monitors and enforces animal welfare at approved slaughterhouses in England and Wales by ensuring they are compliant with all specific requirements in hygiene and animal welfare legislation.
Legislation is in place to protect the welfare of animals at the time of their slaughter with a general requirement that they be spared any avoidable pain, distress or suffering during the slaughter process. A breach of the legislation is a criminal offence.
Additional legislation introduced in 2018 requires slaughterhouses in England where live animals are present to be covered by CCTV. Slaughterhouse operators are required to give authorised FSA staff access to the footage.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said that the charges in this case arose from events captured on such footage, which was reviewed by FSA veterinary staff in April 2021. This followed allegations from an animal rights charity that animal welfare legislation was being breached at the slaughterhouse. Several breaches were discovered from the CCTV including:
- The way the animals were handled before and during slaughter.
- The repeated use of electrical instruments to move the animals.
- Young animals left without food for too long before being slaughtered.
- Staff were seen conducting processes that required certification of the necessary competence, which they did not possess.
On 19 July 2022, the Crown Prosecution Service authorised charges under the Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (England) Regulations 2015.
At Crewe Magistrates’ Court on 3 May 2023 all the defendants pleaded guilty and were sentenced as follows:
G and GB Hewitt Ltd (slaughterhouse operators) fined £19,500, £100 statutory surcharge and £500 costs.
Gerald Hewitt fined £1,000, £100 statutory surcharge and £100 costs.
Matthew Arden fined £1,050, £105 statutory surcharge and £100 costs.
Stephen Mayren fined £1395, £139 statutory surcharge and £100 costs.
Mark Hewitt fined £525, £52 statutory surcharge and £100 costs.
Paul May fined £525, £52 statutory surcharge and £100 costs.
Joseph Arden fined £160, £34 statutory surcharge and £100 costs.
Senior Crown Prosecutor Maqsood Khan, of CPS Mersey Cheshire said: “The CCTV from the G and GB Hewitt slaughterhouse showed many examples of the animals being in avoidable pain, distress and suffering.
"The footage showed unacceptable practices and demonstrated a poor cultural attitude to animal welfare within the premises. The law in this area is strict and clear and this slaughterhouse flouted it on many occasions.
"This is not only unacceptable, but also criminal. These men have pleaded guilty so this case has been resolved relatively quickly.
"The Crown Prosecution Service would like to thank the Food Standards Agency for their help in bringing this prosecution and making these defendants face up to their offending. The CPS works hard with the FSA to prosecute anyone who ignores the legislation around this part of our food industry."
A spokesperson for the Food Standard Agency said: “We welcome the successful outcome of this case. The operator of this slaughterhouse has taken the incident seriously by correcting deficiencies and improving standards in animal welfare, and is now compliant with all legislative requirements.
"This case should act as a deterrent to others as the FSA has a zero tolerance approach to animal welfare breaches. We monitor standards of animal welfare at approved slaughterhouses in England and Wales and all staff are instructed to take prompt enforcement action where breaches are identified. We’re working with partner agencies and industry to continuously improve animal welfare. “
Notes to editors
Background from Food Standard Agency:
- The FSA monitors and enforces animal welfare at approved slaughterhouses in England and Wales by ensuring they are compliant with all specific requirements in hygiene and animal welfare legislation.
- The majority of non-compliances involve documentation and record keeping breaches and do not involve animals experiencing avoidable pain, distress or suffering. However, the FSA takes action in response to all non-compliances to avoid more serious issues occurring and to protect animal welfare.
- Defra and Welsh Government are the policy holders for animal welfare controls within approved slaughterhouses. Application of the controls including enforcement of animal welfare breaches are carried out by the FSA.