Animal Aid

FOOT AND MOUTH - Correspondence with the RCVS

Posted 12 July 2001
Piglets

Animal Aid calls for the resignation of the president of the RCVS:

FAO: HEAD OF THE DISCIPLINARY COMMITTEE ROYAL COLLEGE OF VETERINARY SURGEONS

June 11, 2001

Dear Sir/Madam

On behalf of Animal Aid, I would like to register a formal complaint against the RCVS president, Mr Roger Eddy, and ask that he be formally investigated by your committee.

The matter relates to Mr Eddy's admission, in email correspondence with me relating to Animal Aid's concerns about the conduct of the foot and mouth cull (see attached), that he has personally 'euthanased many animals in my time by the i/c route - dogs, cats, lambs, piglets, and on one or two occasions, calves.'

There is compelling evidence to demonstrate that euthanasing animals by the intracardiac injection method causes pain and stress. The 2000 Report of the American Veterinary Medical Association Panel on Euthanasia was unequivocal. It stated the following: 'Intracardiac injection must only be used if the animal is heavily sedated, unconscious or anesthetised'. (JAVMA, Vol 218, No.5, March 1, 2001, p680)

In direct contravention of this important welfare edict, Mr Eddy has endorsed the use of I/C injection of healthy, fully conscious young animals under the foot and mouth cull. And he indicated to me that he has personally despatched many animals by the I/C route who were not sedated, unconscious or anaesthetised.

In addition, Mr Eddy - in his correspondence with Animal Aid - defended the killing of animals in the sight of others under the f&m measures. His position is that animals watching the sometimes slow and bloody death of family and social group members would be unconcerned by what they observed. When I pointed out that killing animals in the sight of others is prohibited in slaughterhouses for welfare reasons, Mr Eddy claimed, erroneously, that this prohibition arose out 'anthropomorphic perceptions' rather than a concern for the welfare of the animals involved.

That the president of the RCVS should propagate such views, and that he should admit to euthanasing animals by a method that causes unnecessary pain and which is contrary to strict welfare codes laid down by one of the world's leading veterinary associations, is - in our view - cause for formal investigation by your disciplinary committee.

As I pointed out in my June 4 email letter to Mr Eddy: 'It is deeply worrying that the president of the RCVS should express views suggesting that he has such little appreciation of the feelings of animals.

That he acknowledges having many times used I/C injection to euthanase animals is equally depressing. More worrying still is that such attitudes, I must assume, are being transmitted to student veterinarians.'

I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely

Andrew Tyler
Director
Animal Aid
The Old Chapel, Bradford Street, Tonbridge, Kent TN9 1AW
tel 01732 364 546
www.animalaid.org.uk

Relevant background correspondence between Animal Aid and the RCVS

From: Andrew Tyler
To: admin@rcvs.org.uk
Subject: foot and mouth cull
Date: Sat, May 12, 2001, 13:14

Dear Administrator

Animal Aid has a great many concerns about the way the foot and mouth cull is being conducted - and has sought to make these concerns public via the media; we've also written to Secretary of State Nick Brown.

Our concerns are as follows:

  • The captive bolt is being used on sheep* without routine follow-up pithing. There is evidence that some animals, as a consequence, are recovering consciousness and experiencing their own slow deaths piled up with their fellows. Some will be buried alive. (*And probably pigs as well, but TV cameras are kept away from pig sheds)
  • Even in slaughterhouses, with their systems of pens and boxes, animals are frequently improperly stunned and are therefore conscious when throat-cutting takes place. During the cull, there is a greater probability that there will be widespread failures in stunning. Numerous reports from farmers and the RSPCA demonstrate that this is indeed happening.
  • It is equally clear that animals are being killed in the sight of their fellows - a practice prohibited in slaughterhouses because of the distress it causes.
  • The use of intracardiac injection to kill young lambs (and piglets too?). This is, according to all the evidence, a painful experience for the animals and must surely constitute an act of cruelty.

Given that your members are involved in all of the above activities, I would like to request formally that the RCVS Disciplinary Committee conducts an investigation into the conduct of those involved. And especially I would ask that the Committee addresses the use of intracardiac injection to kill farmed animals. It must surely breach the College's guidelines, not to mention the Oath sworn by your members.

Yours sincerely

Andrew Tyler
Director Animal Aid
www.animalaid.org.uk
tel 01732 364 546
The Old Chapel, Bradford Steet, Tonbridge, Kent TN9 1AW

.........................

May 16, 2001 4:33 pm
Dear Mr Tyler

Thank you for your e-mail message of May 12 2001.

With regard to your general concerns I have consulted both the President and the Head of Professional Conduct before preparing this reply, which is based on their advice.

The RCVS has insisted throughout the current outbreak that all slaughter must be supervised by a veterinary surgeon, with the object of ensuring that all welfare concerns are addressed during the slaughter and that all animals are killed as humanely as possible. This includes ensuring that none are inadvertantly left alive.

The RSPCA has also been taking a close interest in the welfare of animals during slaughter throughout the whole outbreak and pithing following the use of captive bolt pistols in sheep is now being used following interventions from the RSPCA.

Slaughterhouse prohibitions on killing animals in sight of their herd mates will, I understand, relate to anthropomorphic perceptions rather than scientific or animal welfare reasons, because there is no evidence that the practice causes stress.

I am advised that the use of intracardiac injection using pentobarbitone is not a painful experience, but a widely used,quick and humane method of euthanasia, providing a sharp needle is used.

You have asked that the Disciplinary Committee investigate the conduct of the veterinary surgeons involved in the slaughter, but the College's disciplinary powers and procedures are derived from statute, and relate to individual veterinary surgeons. Any disciplinary proceedings must involve specific charges as to the professional conduct of a named veterinary surgeon and the RCVS cannot investigate general allegations about unspecified members involved in the supervision of slaughter. If a complaint is made against an individual veterinary surgeon this would be investigated in the usual way.

Yours sincerely

Penny Butler
Caseworker, Professional Conduct Department

.........................

May 21, 2001 10:15 pm
Dear Ms Butler

Before I make a general response to your email message of May 16, let me deal with some of the individual points raised:

Regarding the use of pithing, it is clear from media reports/TV footage and - not least - contact Animal Aid has had with someone involved in a Dumfries & Galloway (D&G) cull team, that pithing has not been routinely carried out to ensure animals are dead after use of captive bolt guns. This has certainly been the case with sheep, who in D&G were assumed dead following stunning unless they showed palpable signs of movement. Given the number of animals involved and the haste and crudeness of the cull operation, it's no wonder that there have been numerous reports from farmers and RSPCA officials of animals enduring lingering deaths.

You must have known about these unclean kills. Did you protest to MAFF? We certainly saw no such public statement. If you made no protest, why not? It is your professional and moral duty to have done so.

You tell me that you are advised that intracardiac injection is 'not a painful experience'. How convenient. Let us hope no-one you know has to experience it. How convenient but how inconsistent, given that one of your colleagues advised Ivan Walton BVM&S that IC injection was indeed painful - if only passingly so.

You say that the Disciplinary Committee can only investigate the conduct of veterinary surgeons by name. How about [name deleted for legal reasons], who was involved in the destruction of a goat called Misty in Dumfries and Galloway? There was also the MAFF vet who did the actual killing. I do not have the latter's name but I'm sure you will be able to find out who he or she was. The family with whom Misty lived have been thoroughly traumatised by the experience, which - they say - involved undue pressure, intimidation and an illicit killing involving members of your college, aided by the police. I would ask that you investigate this matter. For background details contact [details deleted].

You brush aside the destruction of animals in the sight of their fellows on the grounds that the slaughterhouse prohibition arises merely from 'anthropomorphic perceptions'. Your advisers at the RCVS clearly have no understanding of the term. Anthropomorphism is the attribution to animals of human emotions and feelings. Thus, to say a sheep prefers Mozart to Bach can be reasonably called an example of anthropomorphism. But to say that farmed animals are capable of experiencing fear, pain and stress is to acknowledge what all the scientific and 'common' observable evidence tell us: that animals have all the necessary physiological components (pain receptors, neurotransmitters etc) to register these experiences. Is the RCVS line really that sheep and cattle observing the bloody deaths of their family and social group members are untroubled? When those who are yet to be killed huddle and seek to hide in a corner of a field, away from the gore and twitching death throes of their mates, are you really saying they are untroubled?

Let us put the issue more starkly: Would the RCVS say a cat would be untroubled while watching another cat, confined in the same room, being kicked to death? Or that a foal could, with equanimity, watch his mother being mutilated by a thug with a broken bottle?

Does the RCVS recognise that, for instance, a dog can go through emotional turmoil (not eating, becoming lethargic) when his lifelong companion dies? And is the RCVS not aware of the anguish that a dairy cow experiences when - for commercial reasons - her calf is stolen from her within 24/48 hours of birth. Farmers themselves are aware of this phenomenon. They often speak of the days of pining and bellowing. The cow/calf situation demonstrates what is often denied by those who exploit animals - that species other than our own have memories and feelings of anticipation. This can also be seen in the way, for instance, a dog will cower and shake when approached by an individual who habitually beats him.

Finally, does the RCVS know nothing of the protective measures a vixen will take to save her fox cubs during the cubbing season? Hunters themselves will speak of her being ready to risk her own life to draw hunters from the earth where her cubs are sheltering.

I suspect the RCVS really is blind to the sophisticated natures and requirements of animals. How else to explain its willingness to facilitate the live export of farmed animals to slaughterhouses as far afield as Greece and the Middle East? And how else to explain the College's preparedness to accept and indeed profit from the industrialised production and ruthless slaughter of hundreds of millions of poultry, sheep, cattle and pigs every year in the UK? It is because of the veterinary profession's complicity in this systematic exploitation that, I presume, the RCVS would remain unsatisfied with whatever evidence was brought forward demonstrating that animals do indeed feel, suffer, anticipate and aspire to something more than to be factory reared and slaughtered.

And so your reply dismays but it does not surprise me.

Notwithstanding the more general points set out in the last paragraphs, I would appreciate you addressing the specific issues I've raised in this email relating to pithing, killing in the sight of others, IC injection and the destruction of Misty the goat.

Yours sincerely

Andrew Tyler
Director Animal Aid

.........................

May 22, 2001 5:38 pm
I am responding to the email dated May 21 2001 to Penny Butler.

I had thought that Mrs Butler had responded on the points raised but in case this was not clear herewith is my response which is based on 35 years experience as a practising veterinary surgeon, considerations of the literature and communications with welfare organisations such as FAWC and the RSPCA.

1. The RCVS has insisted throughout the current outbreak that all slaughter must be supervised by a veterinary surgeon to ensure that, wherever possible all welfare concerns are addressed during the slaughter that must be done as humanely as possible.

2. Pithing following the use of captive bolt pistols in sheep is now being used following interventions from the RSPCA. The reason why we have insisted on veterinary supervision of slaughter is to ensure all animals are not only killed humanely but that none are left alive.

3. The RSPCA has been taken a close interest in the welfare of animals during slaughter throughout the whole outbreak and where there have been transgressions I understand that prosecutions are pending.

4. Killing animals in sight of their herd mates does not cause any stress. It may be prohibited in slaughterhouses but this is because of anthropomorphic perceptions rather than scientific or animal welfare reasons. I make this statement based on personal experiences and from experiences of others.

5. The use of intracardiac injection using pentobarbitone is a very quick and humane way of euthanasia providing a sharp needle is used. It is not a painful experience. It is however a traumatic experience for the veterinary surgeons having to do this procedure when there are hundreds, if not thousands of lambs to be destroyed. I am concerned about the mental welfare of some of the vets.

R. G. Eddy
PRESIDENT

.........................

May 23, 2001 6:45 pm
Dear Mr Eddy

Thank you for your reply - but did you actually read the email I sent to Penny Butler? You seem merely to have repeated what was said in her first email - certainly in relation to killing in the sight of others and IC injection.

I have seen a copy of the letter Ivan Walton has sent you. I look forward to seeing how you respond to the key points he has raised.

Yours sincerely

Andrew Tyler
Director Animal Aid

.........................

May 23, 2001 6:42 pm
Yes I did read your email and I deduced that you had not read the reply from Penny Butler because you asked the same questions.

Roger Eddy

.........................

May 23, 2001 7:42 pm
Sorry!
But you failed to address several of the points I raised. Specifically, I asked a number of questions in relation to killing animals in the sight of their fellows, outlining various scenarios to see how they would square with your concept of 'anthropomorphic perceptions'.

I also requested that the case of the killing of Misty the goat be investigated - and gave you relevant contact details. This was in response to my being asked to be specific before the RCVS could take action. Is RCVS action to follow?

Questions also remain unanswered with regard to IC injection. As I say, I look forward to your response to Ivan Walton on this and related matters

Andrew Tyler

.........................

May 23, 2001 11:52 pm (this is from Roger Eddy - he's returned my email and added comments)

Sorry!
But you failed to address several of the points I raised. Specifically, I asked a number of questions in relation to killing animals in the sight of their fellows, outlining various scenarios to see how they would square with your concept of 'anthropomorphic perceptions'.

I CAN ASSURE FROM MY OWN EXPERIENCE OF HAVING TO SLAUGHTER ANIMALS IN SIGHT OF THE HERD MATES DOES NOT CAUSE ANY STRESS TO THE REST OF THE HERD. BESIDES THEREIS MUCH THAT HAS BEEN REPORTED THAT AGREES WITH MY VIEW.

I also requested that the case of the killing of Misty the goat be investigated - and gave you relevant contact details. This was in response to my being asked to be specific before the RCVS could take action. Is RCVS action to follow?

I AM INVESTIGATING THIS

Questions also remain unanswered with regard to IC injection. As I say, I look forward to your response to Ivan Walton on this and related matters

1/C injection is not a welfare issue - based on my own experience having used the technique on many occasiona and that RSPCA vets have been minitoring the procedure during the current crisis

.........................

Jun 4, 2001, 16:36
Dear Mr Eddy

I write in response to your email dated May 23.

I am delighted to hear that the RCVS is investigating the killing of Misty the goat.

On I/C injection and killing animals in the sight of others, you appear to be telling me that because you and various colleagues have often done these things over many years, then that constitutes proof that there is no welfare problem.

Let me remind you that all kinds of traditional practices that were once considered wholesome, when freshly and objectively examined end up being abandoned. It is only in recent years, for instance, that the traditional use of sticks with nails in the end have disappeared from (most) livestock markets.

Let me also point out that the slaughterhouse prohibition on the killing of animals in the sight of others has its roots in a concern for the animals' welfare, not the feelings of those who slaughter them.

On I/C injection, I refer you to Ivan Walton's recent email and, not least, the evidence he brings forward from a UFAW vet and a human consultant anaesthetist, relating to the pain caused by I/C injection. Notwithstanding such evidence, you make the shocking admission in an email to Ivan Walton that 'I have euthanased many animals in my time by the i/c route - dogs, cats, lambs, piglets, and on one or two occasions, calves.'

You'll recall that in my previous correspondence I asked you to consider a series of traumatic scenarios. They included a cat watching another cat, confined in the same room, being kicked to death. And a foal watching his mother being mutilated by a thug with a broken bottle.

The clear implication from your reply is that you are convinced that the cat and foal onlookers would be entirely untroubled by the experiences.

It is deeply worrying that the president of the RCVS should express views suggesting that he has such little appreciation of the feelings of animals. That he acknowledges having many times used I/C injection to euthanase animals is equally depressing.

More worrying still is that such attitudes, I must assume, are being transmitted to student veterinarians.

I have to tell you that I intend circulating more widely what I have learned of your views on these issues of I/C injection and killing in the sight of others, with the purpose of prompting some public discussion. This would include publishing, on Animal Aid's website, our full correspondence and alerting the media.

In light of the above, Animal Aid is also calling formally for your resignation as RCVS president.

I invite you to comment on the above prior to my issuing a public statement on the matter.

Yours sincerely

Andrew Tyler
Director

Notes to Editors

  • For more information contact Yvonne Taylor or Andrew Tyler on 01732 364546.
  • We have an ISDN line for Broadcast-quality interviews.

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