Animal Aid

Advertising watchdog 'strikes a ringing blow on behalf of slaughterhouse cruelty'

Posted 23 July 2010

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled that monitoring of animal welfare in British slaughterhouses is effective, despite secret filming by Animal Aid that has found serious welfare breaches in six out of seven randomly selected abattoirs.

The ASA ruling came in response to a complaint about an April 2010 advert placed by the national campaign group in six national newspapers. Titled Act Now to Stop this Cruelty, the advert sought public support to minimise animal suffering by having CCTV installed in every British abattoir.

The group's footage shows pigs being repeatedly kicked in the head, sheep being picked up by ears and fleeces and thrown across the room, and incompetent and even sadistic use of electric stunning tongs. As a consequence of Animal Aid’s evidence, nine slaughterers have been suspended or have had their licences revoked – and legal action has either been taken or is underway against those nine men, as well as against four slaughterhouse operators.

The claim in the Animal Aid advert, that '…there is no effective monitoring system' in British abattoirs, was rejected by the ASA on the grounds that there is a system in place for slaughterhouse 'spot checks' and ‘veterinary inspections’. It was not Animal Aid’s contention, however, that no system exists, only that the system is not effective.

The ASA also ruled that the advertisement’s claim that slaughterhouses routinely ignore the law and brutalise animals was ‘misleading, because abattoirs were required to have fully trained animal welfare officers’. In fact, UK abattoirs are not yet required to have welfare officers, although this will be made compulsory under new slaughter regulations that come into force on January 1st 2013. But whatever the title given to those currently charged with animal welfare duties in abattoirs, Animal Aid’s evidence demonstrates that the system is failing to eradicate widespread animal suffering.

In its submission to the ASA, Animal Aid pointed out that even Tim Smith, the Chief Executive of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) – the slaughterhouse regulatory body – supports Animal Aid’s call for CCTV to be installed in all British abattoirs.

Animal Aid told the ASA: ‘If [he was] convinced that monitoring in British slaughterhouses is adequate [he] would not support the installation of CCTV.’ Backing for the group’s CCTV campaign also comes from the RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming.

In his written report to the FSA Board last week, Mr Smith referred to the widespread nature of the problems and the lack of effective monitoring. He said: ‘Animal Aid’s filming reveals that some slaughtermen carry out some appalling actions when they think they are not being observed. It appears that we are not dealing with isolated incidents and Defra and FSA need to consider how we can improve monitoring in this specific part of slaughterhouses.’

Since Animal Aid began its investigation of abattoirs in January 2009, it has met with senior veterinary and Defra figures, as well as with the FSA’s Tim Smith. Additionally, the campaign group’s footage is being used by Bristol University to help train abattoir vets and Soil Association inspectors.

Says Animal Aid’s Director Andrew Tyler:

‘Over the past 18 months, Animal Aid has produced evidence of widespread slaughterhouse cruelty, incompetence and even sadistic brutality. We have demonstrated that these problems are endemic – and the debate we have provoked, involving leading vets, industry figures and regulators, shows that there is a great deal of support for our view. The Advertising Standards Authority, by taking the comfortable route of endorsing the status quo, has struck a ringing blow on behalf of animal cruelty. Its adjudication is irrational and immoral. Animal Aid’s slaughterhouse campaign will continue with more determination than ever.’

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