Humane slaughter in British abattoirs a ‘sham’

The campaign to reveal what takes place behind closed doors in British slaughterhouses began in January 2009 when we planted fly-on-the-wall cameras in JV Richards, a Cornish abattoir. To date we have filmed in 16 slaughterhouses in the UK.

Between January and June 2009, we filmed secretly inside three randomly chosen slaughterhouses: JV Richards in Cornwall, AC Hopkins in Somerset and Pickstock in Derbyshire. At the first two, we found terrible animal suffering and breaches of the law.

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The fourth abattoir we secretly filmed was Tom Lang Ltd. This is an organic Soil Association-approved abattoir that kills pigs and sheep. Conditions there were so bad that the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) immediately suspended three workers and began building a case for a prosecution. At this slaughterhouse, we filmed pigs being kicked in the face, sheep being picked up and thrown, and the heads of sheep being cut off before the statutory time had elapsed – and while they were, in all probability, still alive.

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In January and February 2010, we filmed at another Soil Association-accredited slaughterhouse, this time in Dorset. Our footage from ABP Sturminster Newton revealed more abuses and legal breaches. Once again, the MHS was forced to take action and has begun building a case for the prosecution of at least one worker.

See the full investigation

The sixth slaughterhouse – JH Lamberts in Norfolk – was filmed in March and April 2010. The footage revealed still more breaches of the welfare laws, including sheep being dragged by their heads, forcibly thrown into the stun room and picked up by their fleeces and ears. Pigs and sheep suffered improper stunning.

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Animal Aid filmed inside A&G Barber slaughterhouse in Purleigh, Essex in April 2010. The film shows scenes of extreme and deliberately-inflicted suffering, including use of electric tongs on pigs’ snouts, tails and in their open mouths. One worker and the slaughterhouse operator face prosecution, and – since losing its contract with a German meat producer as a direct consequence of our investigation – A&G Barber has been forced to close.

See the full investigation

The eighth slaughterhouse Animal Aid filmed was F Drury and Son in Wiltshire in September 2010. Having spent more than a year exposing poor practice and illegality in slaughterhouses, we hoped that the industry would have made significant improvements. But we filmed sheep being decapitated whilst still alive, calves slipping and collapsing repeatedly to the floor for three hours, and goats leaping into the killing area to try to evade the stunning tongs.

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The ninth slaughterhouse we filmed was Cheale Meats in Essex, where the deliberate cruelty inflicted on animals was so shocking, it made the national media.

The film showed pigs being burnt with cigarettes, one animal being punched in the head, pigs being goaded in the face, regular kicks and blows, improper stunning and seriously injured pigs forced to drag themselves to slaughter.

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The tenth slaughterhouse Animal Aid filmed was Bowood Lamb in Yorkshire in December 2014. This was the first non-stun slaughterhouse we filmed. We found vicious abuse of the animals including sheep being smashed headfirst into pallets, a worker bouncing up and down on the neck of a sheep, and slaughterers hacking away at the throats of conscious sheep with a blunt knife.

Read more about this investigation

In October 2016, we filmed in an eleventh slaughterhouse, N Bramall & Sons near Sheffield.

The film shows a severely distressed water buffalo fighting for his life, by desperately attempting to jump out of a restraint box after witnessing other animals being slaughtered. Fearful sheep are documented running in circles to evade being stunned and in another incident slaughtermen appear to be laughing as an animal is twitching on the floor, having just been stunned.

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We filmed in a twelfth slaughterhouse in March 2017, Malik Food Group near Burnley, Lancashire.

We found sheep having their throats hacked at, as many as seven times in one case, and animals being thrown. This has prompted an urgent government investigation and a slaughterman’s licence has been withdrawn.

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Also in March 2017, Animal Aid investigated Cheshire Halal in Greater Manchester. We filmed sheep being handled roughly, with one being thrown over a gate and another falling to the ground after being roughly pushed. She was left struggling on the floor while the worker turned his attention to other animals.

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In April and May 2017 we filmed at Forge Farms Meats in Tonbridge, Kent. The footage captured both the stunning and slaughter of animals. We found serious cause for concern over the way animals were treated, including the method used to stun animals. We are also concerned that some animals are likely to have gone to the knife without being adequately stunned.

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Animal Aid placed hidden cameras inside PJ Hayman & Sons slaughterhouse in Ottery-St-Mary, Devon for two days in July of 2018. The footage showed several animals being beaten and mistreated on the way to slaughter.

The layout and equipment appeared to be woefully out of date, not really fit for purpose and seemed to create additional stress and compounded suffering for the animals.

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Animal Aid investigators filmed in Spring and Summer of 2019 at Farmers Fresh, Wales. Our covert cameras captured appalling scenes of slaughterhouse incompetence and chaos. This is the 16th slaughterhouse in which we have filmed, but the first one located in Wales.

Once again, we have brought to light evidence of blatant staff incompetence and brutal treatment of animals. We brought to light many concerning issues including workers pinning down and cutting the throat of a sheep who appears fully conscious, and a stun-man picking up a sheep by her fleece and neck and hurling her down the slaughter conveyer line, whilst shouting. Another worker grabbed sheep by their throats or fleeces and threw them backwards into the conveyer, often with an audible crash.

This was further amplified by an extremely fast paced slaughter-line.

We believe this provides vital evidence that makes the case for mandatory CCTV to be introduced across Welsh slaughterhouses to bring Wales in line with England and plans proposed for Scotland.

Call for the Welsh government to introduce mandatory CCTV without delay