Animal Aid

Published: 'Behind Closed Doors'

Posted 1 November 2010

A fly-on-the-wall investigation into British slaughterhouses

Animal Aid today (November 2nd) publishes its full investigation into UK slaughterhouses and describes the ‘utter horror’ of slaughter in so-called ‘humane’ British abattoirs. The campaign group reiterates its call to have CCTV cameras installed in all UK slaughterhouses to help end the worst cruelties.

Animal Aid visited seven randomly chosen ‘red meat’ slaughterhouses in seven counties over an 18-month period, planting fly-on-the-wall cameras in each for between two and five days. The resulting films revealed widespread cruelty, terrified animals struggling to escape and many serious breaches of animal welfare laws, despite the presence of government-appointed vets whose job is to ensure welfare in slaughterhouses.

Among the many distressing scenes filmed by Animal Aid are:

  • Animals being kicked in the face, slapped, stamped on, picked up by fleeces and ears, and forcibly thrown across or into stunning pens
  • Animals screaming and struggling to escape
  • Animals going to the knife without adequate stunning
  • Animals stunned and then allowed to come round again
  • Electric tongs used maliciously on the snout, ear, tail, body and open mouth of pigs, resulting in the animals suffering painful electric shocks
  • Ewes being stunned while a lamb suckled them
  • A sheep too sick to stand – or possibly already dead – being brought to slaughter in a wheelbarrow
  • A pig bleeding after being deliberately hit in the face with a shackle hook
  • Improperly stunned animals being stood on to keep them still while shackles were attached
  • Animals being decapitated before the appropriate statutory time had elapsed, and while the animals may still have been alive
  • Long periods elapsing between electrical stunning and ‘sticking’ (throat cutting), which increases the likelihood that animals regain consciousness

Steve McGrath, Chief Executive of the Meat Hygiene Service wrote of the evidence we gathered at Tom Lang Ltd in Devon: ‘I have watched the film and have seen abject cruelty by the slaughtermen to the animals being killed, ineffective stunning, animals having their necks dislocated and heads decapitated before being fully bled, pigs being kicked, shackling before stunning. [T]hese are not technicalities.’1

And on seeing the footage of A&G Barber, Chief Executive of the Food Standards Agency Tim Smith wrote: ‘The cruelty on show is the worst I have seen.’ 2

Animal Aid asserts that, while there is much wrong with how the slaughter industry is currently run and regulated, some of the worst suffering could be curbed if certain changes were made. These include:

  • Installation of CCTV cameras and random viewing by independent assessors
  • Independent training and regular retraining of slaughterers
  • Fixed criteria for what constitutes a ‘fit and proper’ person to slaughter
  • Full responsibility for welfare to be moved to the Food Standards Agency

Says Animal Aid Head of Campaigns, Kate Fowler:

‘In shining a spotlight onto the murky world of slaughter, we have revealed a shockingly brutal industry that pays little heed to the welfare of animals. The public are assured that the industry is tightly regulated. Our evidence shows terrified animals kicked, beaten and goaded if they do not walk meekly to their deaths. Our footage shows thousands of sheep and pigs having their throats cut without having been adequately stunned. Where were the vets and the abattoir management when these abuses were taking place?
‘The government and industry should commit to implementing our recommendations as a matter of urgency. Supermarkets and other retailers should put pressure on slaughterhouses to install CCTV.
‘However, even if all of our recommendations are implemented, animals would continue to suffer terribly in slaughterhouses. That’s the nature of the industry. And this is where individuals can play their part – they can opt out of supporting an industry based on fear and suffering, and choose meat-free foods instead.’

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