16th October 2003 - The RSPCA Court Case
Now the case is over. Everything you hear in this section was said in an open public Magistrates' Court and nothing below is made up, fabricated, left in or left out and I have the evidence to prove all I say in the following (ok, that’s the legal disclaimer over with!).
The RSPCA decided that they would try and prosecute me and my Centre on 5 things:
1. Failure to provide food and water.
2. Failed to keep the ratio between cockerels and hens so as to allow ‘bullying’.
3. Allowed or wasn’t aware that the shed had collapsed killing 2 hens.
4. Red mites and scaly leg.
5. Kept in unsuitable conditions and suffering could have been alleviated.
Let's look at each of these points in turn:
Allegation 1. (Failure to provide food and water.)– Not Guilty
The chickens were said to be thin, this is true. On the 14th June I found out that the chickens had gastric worms which means that they will lose weight but eat more food. All free range chickens will have worms of one sort or another due to the wild birds (blackbirds, robins or sparrows) eating and messing on the same land as the chickens, wild birds do not get wormed on a regular basis. The worms are inadvertently eaten by earth worms which in turn are eaten by chickens (that food cycle thingy). All the chickens were immediately put on a 7 day course of wormer (Flubenvet) which finished on 21st June. There is no way the chickens could have re-gained the weight in 3 days!
The RSPCA did not put food and water down for them until late in the evening in the trailers (see later)
Allegation 2. (Failed to keep the ratio between cockerels and hens so as to allow ‘bullying’.)– Not Guilty
Up until middle of May 2002 all the cockerels had about 7 hens each as the centre had over 600 hens and 75 cockerels. Then the hens started to go missing. I reported this to Leicestershire Constabulary as ‘poultry thefts’, they duly sent out an officer to take more information. The officer said, while filling out an incident report "You do know it is pointless me doing this as they are probably on someone’s table by now!" would he have said the same to someone who had just had their dog or cat stolen??? Because of the lack of help from the police The Chicken Rescue Centre went from having around 700 chickens down to 157 in just over a month.
Because The Chicken Rescue Centre operates a very strict NO KILL policy I would not put any cockerels down just because someone was stealing the hens, had they taken the cockerels as well as the hens then there would be no imbalance! Had the Leicestershire Constabulary conducted investigations or treated the theft of my chickens as a crime then there would still be a lot more chickens. The birds were about to be moved to a new field where the first job would have been to buy a lot of ex-battery hens to make up the numbers.
The RSPCA segregated the chickens into hens and cockerels and kept them separate. In May 2003 5 cockerels died in one day ... DUE TO FIGHTING. Is it legal for the RSPCA to let cockerels die in this way in their care? Wouldn’t the cockerel to hen ratio be totally out? Wouldn’t the cockerels bully each other? Wouldn’t the hens bully each other?
Allegation 3. (Allowed or wasn’t aware that the shed had collapsed killing 2 hens.) – Not Guilty
The shed they are alleging is a 28feet x 10feet hen house, it weighs between 11š2 - 2 tons (1500kg – 2000kg) and was very stable on blocks to keep it off the ground. Apparently one of the blocks had been 'dislodged making the hen house collapse at one corner'. The only way this could have happened is for someone to knock the blocks out with a sledge hammer or to push the shed with a tractor. Where was I when this happened? I was talking to the Leicestershire Constabulary regarding an arson attack on my caravan. The Barrister for the RSPCA asked me in court "did you have any contingency plans in place in case your shed collapsed?" to which I replied "No, it’s not something that could or would have happened by itself." He then said "You didn’t arrange for someone to keep an eye on your shed while you are not there and contact you if something happened to it?" I felt like asking if he had a contingency plan if his house was hit by a meteor or by a volcano, if he had someone watching it at this moment and to inform him if this had happened – but I thought better of it!!!!
If there were birds under the shed then they could have got in or out at any place apart from where it had collapsed, in fact they levered the corner up and 4 hens came out, they were not stressed out instead they joined the flock as though nothing had happened. If these had have been trapped then they would have been muddy from trying to get out and stressed out due to being trapped. They were clean and not stressed. They probably went under the shed to lay an egg and went over to where the shed was being moved out of curiosity.
Allegation 4. (Red mites and scaly leg.)– Not Guilty
On the 14th June 2002 the hens did not seem to be suffering from red mite as when I handled them and found them having worms my skin was not ‘crawling’. When you handle a hen with red mite then the mite will go into your hands and you can feel them crawling over your arms and they make you scratch (much like headlice!). Even the RSPCA vet did not see any red mite when he examined them.
Scaly leg is a parasite under the scales of the leg that pushes the scales up. Some of the birds did have this but if you treat them with Vaseline then it makes the scales drop off but the bug is still under the new scales. It is very hard to totally eradicate the scaly leg mite.
Allegation 5. (Kept in unsuitable conditions and suffering could have been alleviated.) – Not Guilty
My birds were kept in the best conditions, 2 acres of field to run, feed, dustbathe etc. A large warm hen house, the ability to make their nests where they wanted (which made egg collecting a game of hide and seek – they hide the eggs and I have to find them – I was loosing 4-1). At the end of May 2002 the landlord decided, without me knowing or informing me, that he would plough the whole of the field. Have you tried to push a wheelbarrow full of straw and muck etc over a ploughed field? The ridges and furrows makes it as hard as hell! This made me determined to move the chickens as soon as possible so I could dismantle the hen house, clean it thoroughly, disinfect it, move it and then put it up in the new field.
I was actually found guilty on the fact that some of the hens (an unknown number) had ‘red raw’ patches on their necks. This has confused almost everyone in the court as this was never proved. There was no evidence to show this and the RSPCA’s vet who attended on the day of seizure did not see any.
This begs several questions that I have been asking the RSPCA for many months to which they have not or will not answer :-
Why is it legal for the intensive farms including the RSPCA’s own Freedom Foods farms to put these hens into a state of total fear, suffering from 50% featherloss, vitamin deficiency etc. Yet to restore them to proper confident, fully feathered hens with total freedom is, in their eyes, illegal?
Have you ever heard of a battery farmer being prosecuted for causing ‘Unnecesary Suffering’ to tens of thousends of hens?
The court hearing produced some interesting fact and information, it was sometimes hard to keep a smile off my face as to how stupid the whole case seemed.
• The RSPCA have as much power as you or I but they like to think they have more. They do not have the power of entry onto someone’s property unless invited by the owner. This did not stop them coming into my field while I was not there and on their own – no police were present.
• Only the Police can seize anything as the RSPCA do not have the power to seize – there are very tight guidelines covered by several Acts as to the power of seizure.
• The Police have the power to seize animals and place them into the care of the RSPCA to act as carers. This means that the Leicestershire Police employed the RSPCA to look after the chickens. If this is so, then shouldn’t the police pay the costs of looking after the chickens as they are the employers of the RSPCA and the RSPCA should charge the police the cost of looking after them – this fits in with common logic, as an employee do you invoice the number of hours you have worked to your employer or someone else???
NOW FOR THE BIG SHOCK
Why did the RSPCA want to claim £41,255.10 for collecting the chickens, looking after them for 13 months AND TO PAY FOR PEOPLE’S STATEMENTS!!!! From me? (yes you read right, the RSPCA paid for statements and were expecting to re-coop the costs from me!). the RSPCA were charging an average of £3,000 per month for 157 chickens or £0.70 per bird per day. It was said in court that the RSPCA were being charged £400 per month for the buildings (2 x £200) plus they were paying for the feed which is about £200 per ton (a ton of feed would last more than a month) all the work was done by the people who rented out the buildings, the RSPCA did not have to lift a finger. This comes to £600 per month – NOT £3,000. (13 months x £600 = £7,800. They were tryingto charge me £41,255.10. Giving them a profit of £33,455.10), this is not including legal costs!
Is it right for a multi-million pound charity to ask for £33.455.10 profit from a one man not-for-profit organisation? Is this what people give the RSPCA donations for – to gamble it for very large profits from people smaller than themselves? Is this the real reason the RSPCA prosecute so many people – whether innocent or not – so they can get these large profits?
One of the RSPCA's invoices reads "To provide two suitable accomodation units to ensure a healthy environment for domestic poultry to include treatment and complete specialist feeds and fluids as per vet's instructions – 133 birds for 31 days @ 70p per bird = £2886.10"
Lets look at this:-
• "To provide two suitable accomodation units" - 2 stables costing £200 each per month.
• "To ensure a healthy environment for domestic poultry" - where cockerels can die fighting each other? If it is a healthy environment then why are there only 133 of the original 157 birds still alive? Why arethere only around 100 birds still alive today?
• To include treatment" & "as per vet's instructions" - not according to any vet that attended court.
• "And complete specialist feeds" - Layers mash or layers' pellets.
• "And fluids" – Water on an auto feeder system, it comes straight from the mains
• "133 birds for 31 days @ 70p per bird = £2886.10" – I have worked out that a 20kg bag will feed 160 chickens (chickens eat 125 grams of food per day). Let's say the bags of "complete specialist feeds" (or layers' pellets to you and I), costs £5 per bag (or £0.25 per kg), that means that each of the 160 chickens costs £0.04 (yes, just 4p) to feed per day. As we are working on 133 birds it will cost either £0.04 per day with 3 kg left in the bag OR working that each bird eats it’s share that makes 16,625g of food they eat per day, 16.63kg x £0.25 per kg = £4.16 of feed per day / 133 birds = £0.04. Accomodation - £400 rental of the buildings / 31 days = £12.91 per day / 133 birds = £0.10 (total so far is £0.14 per bird per day – or - £577.22 per month) where is the rest of the £2308.88 (or the £0.56 per bird per day) spent?
I had nothing against the volunteers of the RSPCA, why should I? I used to rehome a lot of chickens from the animal centres but after the past 18 months and the fact that they were actually going to make such a profit from my center ...
If I were to charge £0.70 per bird per day for all the chickens I have taken for the RSPCA then I’d be charging them £83,650 (£0.70 x 1195 days x 100 chickens) for looking after them (not including vet’s fees etc.) then The Chicken Rescue Centre would never be a struggling sanctuary. But because our services are free of charge we will always be struggling, unlike the charities that raise hundreds of millions of pounds per year ... not all by public donations!
Next we come to the way the RSPCA decided to move the chickens from the field. Normally and according to DEFRA’s regulations and the RSPCA’s OWN Freedom Foods regulations they should have been put into purposely made poultry crates to prevent injury and prevent unnecessary suffering. The birds should also be unloaded no longer than 8 (yes eight) hours AFTER the first chicken is loaded. That’s the rules, now for what actually happened –
157 chickens were loaded loose into 2 cattle trailers, one measuring 8’ x 5’ (total floor area of 3.71m2 ) in which they loaded 50 of my chickens. The other measured 12’ x 6’ (total floor area of 6.74m2) in which they loaded the remaining 107 birds. A chicken's foot is much like our hands, it is designed for gripping, not standing on a moving surface (an example is for you to try and stand on your hands on a moving train, see how long it is before you fall over!). Not only this but they left them in the trailers overnight and half the next day. The temperature was 26oC (78.8oF) outside so imagine what it would have been like inside the 2 trailers.
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