TWO Whitchurch men have been punished by a court for their role in a series of Cheshire-based animal welfare offences. 

Matthew Arden, 32, and Paul May, 49, from Whitchurch, were both fined £525 and ordered to pay a £52 statutory surcharge and £100 costs.

The men were convicted at Crewe Magistrates Court on Wednesday, May 3 in the case involving G and GB Hewitt Ltd, a slaughterhouse operator on the outskirts of Chester.

Four other men who worked there were also sentenced for animal welfare offences including, in some cases, causing avoidable pain, distress or suffering to animals.

G and GB Hewitt Ltd owns the slaughterhouse at The Abattoir, Huxley, where cattle and sheep are slaughtered. 

In addition to the company itself, the defendants, all slaughtermen, are:

  • Mark Lee Hewitt, 34 from Huxley
  • Stephen Mayren, 66, of Poulton-le-Fylde in Lancashire
  • Joseph Anthony Arden, 66, from Nantwich.
  • Gerald Mark Hewitt, 59, from Tarporley.

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 also seen conducting processes that required certification of the necessary competence, which they did not possess.

On July 19, 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 May 3, 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.
  • 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."