Animal Aid

Humane Slaughter in British Abattoirs a 'Sham'

Posted 28 August 2009

Animal Aid’s undercover investigation exposes shocking cruelty

National campaigning group Animal Aid has today released footage taken secretly at three randomly chosen abattoirs, which offers an unprecedented close-up of the true inner workings of typical British slaughterhouses that kill pigs, sheep and cattle. The film convincingly disposes of the myth of stress- and pain-free ‘humane slaughter’. The 40 hours of footage shows more than 1,500 animals being stunned and more than 1,000 being killed. Animal Aid anticipates the revelations will provoke a plain-speaking debate involving consumers, politicians, regulators and the industry.

Pigs and sheep are seen being kicked, shoved and – in one case – dragged into the stun room, which was packed with frightened animals. In the chaos, animals slip, fall and cry out. The electric tongs used to stun pigs and sheep frequently make contact for too short a time or do not span the brain, and deliver, instead, nothing more than painful electric shocks. Often, the suffering inflicted, the terror experienced and the indifference of the stun operator are shockingly apparent.

The scenes filmed at AC Hopkins and JV Richards included:

  • Pigs and sheep going to the knife without adequate stunning
  • Pigs and sheep stunned and then allowed to come round again
  • Pigs, sheep and calves crying out and struggling to escape
  • Pigs being kicked in the face and sheep thrown to the floor
  • Pigs and sheep with illness or injury being slaughtered
  • A sheep too sick to stand – or possibly already dead – being brought to slaughter in a wheelbarrow
  • A ewe being stunned and killed while her young was suckling her
  • Ewes watching as their young are killed
  • Pigs falling from the slaughter line into the blood pit and being dragged out and re-shackled while other pigs look on
  • An inadequately stunned young calf lying kicking on the floor and the stun operator standing on him to keep him still

Animal Aid's film contains evidence of several potential breaches of the Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations and, consequently, the campaign group has called for:

  • CCTV to be placed in all UK slaughterhouses
  • A change in the law to make ongoing training and assessment mandatory for all abattoir workers
  • One stun operator/slaughterer at AC Hopkins abattoir in Somerset to have his licence revoked and for him to be prosecuted to answer charges of animal cruelty
  • An independent investigation to be held into the reasons for this worker’s deficient performance

Kate Fowler, Head of Campaigns at Animal Aid, says:

‘We believe that millions of animals across the country are suffering untold torment when they are stunned and killed. In the stun rooms, we filmed terrified sheep and pigs running crazily in circles, looking for an exit or trying to make themselves invisible behind the hoist. Two sheep were so desperate to escape that they leapt through the hatch into the slaughter area where they landed in the blood pit below their bleeding and shackled mates. Many animals were partially stunned and left writhing or convulsing on the floor, while the stun operator ignored their plight. Animals were kicked, hit, goaded, sworn at and stood on. In our view, one worker in particular combined incompetence, stupidity and callousness. But even those workers who function as best they can, operate in a system that is pitiless.

‘The film we obtained shows scenes from hell and disposes of the myth that slaughter in the UK is, or can ever be, humane.’

Notes to Editors:

  • The three slaughterhouses are: JV Richards in Truro, Cornwall; AC Hopkins in Taunton, Somerset; and Pickstock in Swandlicote, Derbyshire. Illegal breaches were filmed at the first two.
  • Watch the 10-minute compilation film
  • Read the full report, which includes data, potential law breaches and details of animal suffering
  • Footage shot at each of the abattoirs can be found at: AC Hopkins, JV Richards, and Pickstock
  • To see and download still images, click on the appropriate abattoir name: AC Hopkins, JV Richards and Pickstock
  • Animal Aid investigators observe strict biosecurity at all times. We consulted a senior Trading Standards officer to ensure that we adopt all necessary measures and that we are always in full compliance.
  • For additional information and to arrange an interview, call Kate Fowler or Andrew Tyler on 01732 364546.
  • We have an ISDN line available for broadcast-quality interviews.

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