Animal Aid

Three workers suspended and CCTV installed in organic abattoir following cruelty allegations

Posted 11 December 2009

Three slaughtermen have been suspended from a Soil Association-approved abattoir following an undercover investigation by Animal Aid that reveals what the government regulatory body, the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS), describes as ‘clear evidence of breaches of animal welfare legislation’.

The national campaign group’s footage of pigs and sheep being killed was shot secretly between October 19 and November 3 at Tom Lang Ltd, in Ashburton, Devon. The evidence was handed to the MHS. The film shows animals being kicked, slapped and thrown; improperly stunned; and even decapitated while they may still have been alive.

In a formal response to Animal Aid, the MHS has said that, as well as the suspension of the three workers, the plant operator has now installed CCTV ‘to record the slaughtering process’. This is in line with Animal Aid’s key campaign objective to see the compulsory introduction of CCTV in all British abattoirs and for the footage obtained to be periodically reviewed by an independent panel. The MHS has also announced that ‘evidence to support a potential prosecution of [T Lang’s] slaughterhouse operator and slaughterers is being collated’.

The Soil Association, which insists that it upholds the highest welfare standards, has suspended Lang from its scheme as a result of Animal Aid's evidence.

The Lang investigation is published less than four months after the release of 40 hours of Animal Aid footage shot secretly at three mainstream, non-organic abattoirs. That earlier footage showed ewes being stunned while baby lambs still suckled at their teats – as well as pigs and sheep being kicked, shoved and dragged. A slaughterman at one of the abattoirs – AC Hopkins, in Taunton, Somerset – faces prosecution under the animal welfare legislation.

Animal Aid declared at the time of publication of footage from those three abattoirs that it ‘convincingly disposes of the myth of stress- and pain-free humane slaughter’, given that the abattoirs in which filming took place were randomly selected. Tom Lang Ltd was also randomly selected for investigation, with a view to discovering how much better animals fare in a typical Soil Association-approved abattoir that produces organic meat. The new footage reveals that animals are at risk of random violence and practices that increase their pain and fear, whatever the system of killing.

Says Animal Aid Head of Campaigns, Kate Fowler:

‘The public is encouraged to believe that animals are killed in a humane, competent and considerate manner in mainstream British slaughterhouses. Our detailed secret filming over recent months in four establishments presents an unprecedented record of the horrors that are the everyday norm. We see animals subjected to random violence and incompetent practices that have clearly dismayed and alarmed the official industry regulatory body. That we should see such scenes in a Soil Association-approved abattoir will be especially distressing for those who expected better from such establishments. The evidence we have been accumulating points to a simple truth: the production and killing of animals for meat is an ugly, violent, business – however the final product is labelled. At the very least, CCTV must be installed in all British abattoirs so that some light is shone on the process. That won’t end the suffering but it could reduce it.’

More Information:

  • For more information contact Kate Fowler or Andrew Tyler on 01732 364546.
  • We have an ISDN line available for broadcast quality interviews.

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