Revealed: Cigarettes stubbed out on slaughter pigs’ faces

Posted on the 28th July 2011

Cigarettes stubbed out on pigs’ faces; one animal punched in the head; another goaded in the face; regular blows and kicks; seriously injured pigs forced to drag themselves to slaughter… All these abuses in one UK slaughterhouse and Defra still won’t prosecute.

Animal Aid has released footage shot secretly at Elmkirk Ltd (Cheale Meats), an Essex-based, family-run slaughterhouse that kills up to 6,000 pigs a week and whose website proclaims: ‘Be proud of higher welfare, buy British pork.’


The film – which was recorded on a number of secretly installed cameras over a period of four days – shows three different workers stubbing their cigarettes out on the faces of pigs, while one of the men landed a violent punch on the face of a pig who was walking by.

In addition, three seriously injured pigs were forced to crawl from the lairage, through the race and into the stun pen. Animal Aid’s cameras followed them as they were pushed, dragged by their ears and kicked along. Such treatment breaches the welfare laws multiple times.*

Animal Aid filmed many examples of incompetence. Pigs are stunned using electrified tongs, which should span their brains and render them immediately insensible. However, three of the four workers filmed stunning pigs showed a callous indifference to the suffering of the animals, many of whom were not stunned correctly. Some were subjected to painful electric shocks from the tongs, and fell to the ground screaming.

It is legal to use electric goads on the muscles of the hindquarters of pigs, but only for brief periods and only when there is space ahead of the animal in which to move. At Cheale Meats, the electric goad was used in the face of one pig and on the anus of another.

An additional worrying episode showed an apparently dead pig being dragged into the stun pen by a pole in her mouth. She was not stunned but she was shackled, hoisted and had her throat cut on the slaughter line. How this animal died, what she had been suffering from and where her meat ended up remain unknown.

Cheale Meats is the ninth UK slaughterhouse to be secretly filmed by Animal Aid in the past two-and-a-half years. The national campaign group has identified legal breaches in seven of the previous eight – some of them so serious that one slaughterhouse was forced to close down. Cases were built for the prosecution of nine men and four slaughterhouse operators before a change of government brought a change of heart, and all the cases were dropped. Defra, under the coalition government, said that, unlike its Labour predecessor, it could not proceed because the evidence was obtained without the permission of the slaughterhouses. Animal Aid believes that this is a politically motivated excuse and cites the recent Panorama programme, which secretly filmed care home workers without the permission of the owners, and whose film is being used to prosecute.

Animal Aid sent the Cheale Meats evidence to the Food Standards Agency (FSA). This is the body that supplies vets to slaughterhouses and investigates breaches of the welfare and hygiene law before passing the cases to Defra, which is the prosecuting body. The FSA replied on 14 June saying: ‘Defra is not prepared to commence prosecution proceedings where the initial allegation is based on CCTV footage gained without the consent of the relevant Food Business Operator.’

Kate Fowler, Head of Campaigns at Animal Aid says:

‘Since we first began investigating English slaughterhouses, we have been pressing everyone involved – regulators, industry bodies and the government – to act decisively to end the cruelty. At first, they appeared contrite and promised action but now their words ring hollow. If Defra won’t prosecute these flagrant breaches of the law; if the vets can’t or won’t act to stop the cruelties; and if the slaughterhouse owners look the other way, who is there to stop animals from being abused at the most vulnerable time of their lives? It seems that all involved are content to keep quiet and to allow these cruelties to continue. So much for the UK having the best welfare standards in the world!’

Notes to Editors

Additional information

  • Animal Aid has secretly filmed inside eight other slaughterhouses from January 2009 until the present.
  • While the government has so far failed to take action to curb the cruelties, the supermarkets have responded to Animal Aid’s campaign for CCTV to be installed in the slaughterhouses that supply them. Ten major supermarkets Morrisons, Waitrose, the Co-op, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, Tesco, Lidl, Asda, Marks & Spencer and Iceland, along with wholesalers Booker, have now agreed to make CCTV mandatory.
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* The treatment of the injured pigs breaches the Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations in a number of ways:

  1. The occupier of a slaughterhouse or knacker’s yard and any person engaged in the movement or lairaging of animals shall ensure that pending the slaughter or killing of any sick or disabled animal in the slaughterhouse or knacker’s yard, it is kept apart from any animal which is not sick or disabled. (Schedule 3, Part II 2 (e))
  2. The occupier of a slaughterhouse or knacker’s yard and any person engaged in the movement or lairaging of any animal shall ensure that any animal which has experienced pain or suffering during transport or following its arrival at the slaughterhouse or knacker’s yard is slaughtered or killed immediately. (Schedule 3, Part II, paragraph 4 (a))
  3. The occupier of a slaughterhouse or knacker’s yard and any person engaged in the movement or lairaging of any animal shall ensure that any animal which is unable to walk is not dragged to its place of slaughter or killing but is slaughtered or killed where it lies; or if it is possible and to do so would not cause any unnecessary pain or suffering, is transported on a trolley or movable platform to a place of emergency slaughter or killing where it is then immediately slaughtered or killed. (Schedule 3, Part II, paragraph 5 (a,b))
  4. The occupier of a slaughterhouse or knacker’s yard and any person engaged in the movement of any animals shall ensure that every animal is moved with care and, when necessary, that animals are led individually. (Schedule 3, Part II, paragraph 9)
  5. No person shall inflict any blow or kick to any animal. (Schedule 3, Part II, paragraph 12)
  6. No person shall lift or drag, or cause or permit to be lifted or dragged, any animal by the head, horns, ears, feet, tail, fleece or any other part of its body in such a way as to cause it unnecessary pain or suffering. (Schedule 3, Part II, paragraph 7)

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