Bowood Yorkshire Lamb was the tenth slaughterhouse in which we had filmed undercover since January 2009. We didn’t know what we would find when our cameras were planted, including that it was a halal establishment – the first we had investigated. We have now investigated 14 slaughterhouses, and all but two have stunned the animals before killing them. Two were Soil Association-approved, and another was accredited by the RSPCA’s Freedom Foods scheme. We found evidence of lawbreaking in the vast majority of slaughterhouses, including animals being kicked, punched in the face, given electric shocks, burnt with cigarettes and thrown about prior to having their throats cut.
So we see that Bowood Yorkshire Lamb does not have a monopoly on violent and incompetent handling of animals. The feature that distinguished it from the traditional ‘humane’ English slaughterhouse is that it killed animals without pre-stunning with electric tongs or by a shot in the head with a captive bolt. Jewish and Muslim religious authorities assert that death by the shechita or halal methods respectively, without pre-stunning (many halal slaughterhouses do, in fact, stun first), is instantaneous and painless. A body of evidence demonstrates that this is not a credible position, and the Bowood footage removes any remaining doubt. Rather than animals being treated with compassion and being uninjured prior to the fatal cut, we see them routinely treated with gratuitous violence and contempt. Additionally, many of the sheep in our film are not dispatched with a single clean cut but have their throats hacked at repeatedly with a knife that is either blunt or being used ineptly.
Compassionate people whatever their religious beliefs, or none, will be appalled by the treatment endured by these animals. But mainstream ‘humane’ slaughter, as we have seen, is also deeply problematic. We are unconvinced that the electric tongs, even when used properly, render an animal ‘instantly insensible’, as claimed. Rather, they might simply deliver an agonising, immobilising electric shock.
Animal Aid believes that attacks on halal and shechita ‘ritual’ slaughter methods, by people who refuse also to speak out against ‘humane’ slaughter, are often rooted in bigotry and hypocrisy. How many people, for instance, who become impassioned on the question of halal slaughter, are prepared to forgo their weekly curried chicken or lamb – made from dead animals killed by the halal method? Similarly, when visiting predominantly Muslim countries (e.g. Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco) how many refrain from eating meat for the duration of their stay?
By whatever method animals are killed, or whichever authority presides over the killing, there is no mercy in a slaughterhouse. The animals are traumatised. They don’t want to be killed but they are killed, and for no good reason. Meat, egg and milk production are pitiless, bloody activities that are predicated on industrial-scale animal exploitation and killing. And yet we can thrive without animal products. That is why Animal Aid urges people to adopt an animal-free diet.