When Animal Aid’s slaughterhouse investigations made the national news, we received a number of calls from workers keen to share their own experiences. One man expressed concern that a colleague at his slaughterhouse had just been released from prison following a conviction for rape. We checked the conditions for issuing slaughter licences and found that the questionnaire asked only that applicants declare animal welfare convictions. Those who have convictions for harming people, no matter how vicious or sadistic the attack, are welcome to apply for a licence to kill animals. And those who do have convictions for abusing animals but fail to declare them can also rest easy, as no CRB checks are undertaken. Unsurprisingly, then, when we asked the Food Standards Agency how many licensed slaughterers had unspent convictions for violent or sexual assaults, it didn’t know.
What we do know is that there are a significant number of slaughterhouse employees who have also deliberately harmed people, including: John McFarlane who used a captive bolt gun to kill a woman he had been stalking; Nathan Morgan, who was jailed for kicking and punching a passer-by; Patrick Colleran, who was convicted of raping two women; John Smith, who killed his wife, having already been convicted more than once of assaulting her; Peter Newbery, who sexually assaulted and murdered two teenagers in a care home; Paul Weedon, who slit the throat of a pensioner; Drew Affleck, who set fire to a house, killing three people; Paul Harry Smith who was jailed for beating up his pregnant girlfriend; Jason Baldwin, who killed, disemboweled and butchered his neighbour; and now, of course, Mark Bridger who killed April Jones in 2012.
Obviously not all slaughterers harm people, but a key question is whether they are more likely to do so than, say, bus drivers or bankers. A 2012 Australian study found that slaughterhouse workers are more inclined to commit acts of violence. The lead researcher, Dr Taylor, found that their levels of aggression were ‘so high they’re similar to the scores… for incarcerated populations’. These findings corroborate a 2010 Canadian study, which found that violent crimes including sexual assault and rape increase in towns once an abattoir moves in.
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