A DORSET livestock haulier has been told to pay more than £6,000 after causing 'unnecessary suffering' to a group of calves on their way to a slaughterhouse.

John Pritchard, 47, from Shaftesbury, was in charge of transporting 35 calves from a farm in Dorset to an abattoir in Wiltshire.

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

This trailer was only designed to carry sheep when both decks were in use, because there was insufficient headroom on the lower deck for calves to stand - but Pritchard transported the calves on the two-hour journey to the slaughterhouse. 

When he arrived, the calves were unloaded by a member of staff who immediately noticed that the animals on the lower deck had injuries to 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.

The official vet at the slaughterhouse examined the calves and concluded that 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 more than 40 degrees, with the CCTV showing the calves stumbling and falling down the ramp.

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 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.

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

Cllr Laura Beddow, Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for culture and communities, 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, call 01305 224475 or email trading standards direct.