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Monday, 21 May, 2001, 14:42 GMT 15:42 UK
Cull cruelty cases may be dropped
Dead sheep
The RSPCA is investigating cases of cruelty
The RSPCA may have to abandon many prosecutions against slaughtermen accused of cruelty during the foot-and-mouth cull, because of lack of evidence.

Its inquiries include a number of cases where stunned or injured animals survived hours, or even days, after a slaughter operation.

The organisation says it will be difficult to proceed against individuals where they were part of teams involved in killing animals.

A spokeswoman said no formal decisions had been made but a number of cases would be very difficult to bring.

Lack of evidence

The RSPCA is involved in 60 cruelty investigations linked to the foot-and-mouth crisis.

Sheep
The RSPCA is still gathering evidence

Eighty inspectors throughout the UK, a quarter of the total, are involved.

An RSPCA spokeswoman, Lisa Dewhurst, said: "In a lot of cases it will be extremely difficult to bring a prosecution because of lack of evidence.

"There are often teams of slaughtermen involved and it is very difficult to bring a prosecution against an individual.

"We are nevertheless pressing ahead with evidence gathering and we will be feeding this into the inquiry when the outbreak is over."

Animals survived

Two of the prosecutions which will almost certainly be dropped are against slaughtermen involved in killing more than 1,000 sheep in Cumbria early in the outbreak.

A team of slaughtermen was involved in the killing.

Six of the animals survived until the next day and had to be destroyed.

The RSPCA says it can be difficult to prove whether animals were conscious and were suffering.

The organisation says it will continue to investigate further cases which are reported.

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