Essex slaughterhouse expose finds ‘unbearable cruelty and suffering’

Posted on the 27th June 2010

Animal Aid has today released footage taken secretly inside an Essex slaughterhouse that kills pigs. The film, which was shot over three days, shows scenes of extreme and deliberately-inflicted suffering, including use of electric tongs on animals’ snouts, tails and their open mouths.

It was shot at A & G Barber’s abattoir in Purleigh, and is the seventh ‘red meat’ abattoir that the national campaign group has secretly filmed since January 2009. The Barber’s footage is the most shocking of all.

The Food Standards Agency has confirmed that one man has had his slaughter licence permanently revoked, and that both he and his employer are being investigated with a view to a prosecution.

Among the scenes filmed were:

  • Incompetent and inadequate stunning for almost every one of the 767 pigs filmed
  • Stunned pigs left to regain consciousness
  • The application of electric stunning tongs to snouts, ears and tails to encourage the animals to move or out of apparent malice
  • The use of electric stunning tongs around the bodies of animals, which does not stun but delivers instead a painful electric shock
  • Pigs being routinely kicked in the face
  • Pigs being hit in the face with shackle hooks, in one case, drawing blood

This is the seventh red meat slaughterhouse that Animal Aid has secretly filmed during the past 18 months, and the sixth where legal breaches have been recorded. As a result of this ongoing investigation, nine men from five slaughterhouses have been either suspended or have had their slaughter licences permanently revoked. Additionally, legal action has been taken or is underway against all nine men and also against four of the slaughterhouse operators.

Says Animal Aid Head of Campaigns, Kate Fowler:

‘The suffering inflicted on pigs at A & G Barber’s is unbearable to watch. That these vulnerable animals are forced to endure terrible and deliberate cruelty while the slaughterer mocks their plight is absolutely shocking.

‘The system has failed to protect these animals from violence, and our investigations indicate that breaches of animal welfare laws are widespread and commonplace. Our campaign to have CCTV installed in all slaughterhouses – which now has the support of the Food Standards Agency – would help ensure best practice and provide evidence for prosecutions but it will never end the suffering. The only way to do that is to choose meat-free foods.’

Watch a 4-minute film shot at A & G Barber

More information:

  • For full background or to arrange an interview, contact Kate Fowler or Andrew Tyler on 01732 364546.
  • We have an ISDN line available for broadcast quality interviews.

Notes for Editors:

Since Animal Aid first released footage in August 2009, we have been calling for CCTV to be installed in all slaughterhouses to help vets monitor the stunning and slaughter process, to encourage best practice, to help with training and retraining and to provide evidence. We called for CCTV to be installed because it is clear from our investigations that the current monitoring system is inadequate and that many legal breaches and examples of bad practice are going undetected by vets.

We are now supported in this aim by the RSPCA, Compassion in World Farming, the Soil Association (which has given accreditation to two of the abattoirs we filmed) and – most importantly – the government’s Food Standards Agency (FSA).

The footage from our cameras is being used by Bristol University to help train abattoir vets and Soil Association inspectors, and by the FSA as evidence for prosecutions.

Additional slaughterhouse failings that Animal Aid aims to change include the poor provision of training for slaughterers, and the currently meaningless ‘fit and proper person’ test. Read details on these.

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