Between 2009 and 2017, Animal Aid filmed secretly inside thirteen UK slaughterhouses. We found evidence of lawbreaking in twelve of them. The problems are serious and widespread. Our films revealed animals being kicked, slapped, stamped on, and picked up by fleeces and ears and thrown into stunning pens. We recorded animals being improperly stunned and coming round again, or suffering painful electrocution instead of being stunned. We filmed animals deliberately and illegally beaten and punched, pigs burned with cigarettes, and the throats of conscious animals being repeatedly hacked at. None of the illegal acts we filmed were prevented by the on-site vets or the slaughterhouse operators who have ultimate responsibility for animal welfare. That’s why we need CCTV.
Between 2010 and 2015, the number of slaughterhouses installing CCTV increased significantly. This is because Animal Aid successfully lobbied all the supermarkets to insist their slaughterhouse suppliers have cameras installed. Many other slaughterhouses followed suit but since 2015, the number with cameras has plateaued.
Our investigations have shown that the presence of cameras alone does not deter abuse and poor practice. Four of the slaughterhouses Animal Aid filmed – Cheale Meats, Bowood Yorkshire Lamb, N Bramall & Son and Malik Food Group – already had cameras installed. In some cases, we placed our cameras right beside theirs, so we could see what they could see but, of course, it was our footage, not theirs, that was monitored and acted upon.
The abuse we discovered at Cheale Meats included animals burnt with cigarettes, a pig punched in the face, others kicked, beaten and dragged, and some goaded in the face and anus.
At Bowood we filmed sheep being picked up and smashed headfirst into solid structures. They were kicked in the face, and thrown by their fleeces, legs and ears. They were tormented and abused and, at this non-stun slaughterhouse, their throats were hacked at with a blunt knife while they were still fully conscious.
And at Malik, animals had their throats cut up to seven times while fully conscious, as the knife in this non-stun slaughterhouse was evidently not sharp enough for a clean cut. A worker also picked sheep up by their fleeces and threw them.
Since all these slaughterhouses had cameras, there is no reason why the abuses should not have been detected. Perhaps they were but the slaughterhouse management ignored them or failed to report them to the authorities (we know the advice from industry is to sack abusive slaughtermen rather than report them, which means they are free to get a job elsewhere and carry on their abuse). Or, perhaps, the cameras are ‘for show’ or to comply with the wishes of a supermarket but they are not properly monitored.
We need a law that:
- • sets out where cameras are sited
- • insists they are well maintained
- • details for how long the footage must be kept
- • sets out who gets to see it and when
- • and has proportionate sanctions for those who refuse to comply
In a voluntary scheme, footage does not have to be kept, watched, handed over to anyone, and all abuses can be hushed up.
Legislation is essential to ensure that cameras are properly maintained and monitored, and infringements swiftly and robustly acted upon.
Yes. Section 12 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 allows the government to create new regulations to better protect animals, and it has already used this provision to create new laws, including The Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007.
What about Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales?
The welfare of animals at the time of slaughter is a devolved issue, and Animal Aid is working with devolved governments to encourage them to legislate for mandatory CCTV in their countries.
If you live in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, please write to the relevant minister to ask for mandatory CCTV in all slaughterhouses.
Lesley Griffiths AM
Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs
Cardiff Bay CF99 1NA
Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity
The Scottish Parliament
Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs
Upper Newtownards Road
Belfast BT4 3SB
028 9052 4140