We were horrified to see yet again pictures on TV of a rifleman pursuing animals near Hexham and sent the following to

Arthur Griffiths Divisional Veterinarian Manager Divisional Control Centre Kenton Bar Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 2YZ

Dear Mr Griffiths

I write to protest against the use of loose rounds against farm animals.

In spite of the prohibition of the media, and often the RSPCA, from witnessing the slaughter of farm animals, pictures were screened yesterday of a rifleman man in green overalls pursuing farm animals near Hexham. Sheep and cattle are domesticated animals, generally amenable to being herded if dealt with by properly experienced herdsmen. Firearms are not commonly used by farmers to bring down their animals while trying to move them from place to place. Why they should be in use during the current slaughter escapes me.

According to Mr Twidddy, to whom I spoke on the phone today it seems that veterinarians under your control are allowing this primitive, dangerous and cruel practice; a procedure that would have been allowed by the ethics of your own profession to be employed only in order to put down an animal in extremis.

As a concerned taxpayer, I would welcome an explanation of the circumstances in which you permit the use of loose rounds, what precautions you take to ensure that the individual marksmen are licensed and properly experienced in shooting to kill with one shot, what reports you require from the field accounting for the use of ammunition and monitoring the effectiveness of this method of despatch, and what formal means you use to ensure that marksmen who prove incapable of performing their task in an humane way are identified and removed from this duty. I would be greatly relieved to know that this potentially cruel practice is in good hands and properly managed. .....(the rest of the letter asked for an explanation of the slaughter policy) FFR

Mr Twiddy (of DEFRA) told me they could do little about this without specific information about the exact time and place of the incident - Please can anyone help by letting Mr Griffiths know where and when this incident took place and thus help put an end to this barbaric practice? The slaughter is bad enough without this kind of obscenity.

Prof. Fenton F Robb