Between 2009 and 2014, Animal Aid filmed secretly inside ten randomly chosen UK slaughterhouses. We found evidence of cruelty and lawbreaking in nine 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 detected by the on-site vets or the slaughterhouse operators who have ultimate responsibility for animal welfare. That’s why we need CCTV.
An increasing number of slaughterhouse operators are installing CCTV cameras in part or all of their premises. This is because, between 2010 and 2011, Animal Aid successfully lobbied all the supermarkets to ask them to insist their slaughterhouse suppliers have cameras installed. Since then, many other slaughterhouses have followed suit.
However, two of the slaughterhouses Animal Aid filmed – Cheale Meats and Bowood Yorkshire Lamb – already had CCTV cameras installed. In fact, 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.
At Cheale Meats we filmed pigs being burnt in the face with cigarettes for fun, one animal being punched in the head, others being beaten or goaded in the face and anus. Lame animals were kicked as they dragged themselves through the slaughterhouse and workers delivered incompetent and ineffective stuns as a matter of routine.
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.
Since both of 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
Richard Lochhead MSP
The Scottish Parliament
Edinburgh EH99 1SP
Michelle McIlveen MLA
Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs
DAERA Private Office
Belfast BT4 3SB
028 9052 4140