Animal Aid filmed cows being killed over four days in January and February 2010.
In the very first moments of the film it was clear that the stun box was not set up legally. The law requires stun boxes to have a headshelf fitted, which stops cows from dropping their heads, making it difficult for an effective stun to be delivered (cows are stunned by use of a captive bolt gun that drives a retractable bolt into the animals’ brains). Since the cows were able to keep moving their heads to avoid the gun, the stun operator was forced to take pot shots, meaning that all too often cows were not stunned adequately by the first shot and remained standing, scared and in pain, or fell to the ground and lay there, breathing hard, waiting for another shot to end their suffering. Of the 114 cows who we filmed being stunned over two days, 14 – that’s 12 per cent – had to be shot more than once. One cow endured four attempts. After the second shot, she collapsed on the floor where she could not easily be reached. Two workers lowered a third in by his legs, and even then it took two more shots to render her unconscious.
Animals were goaded illegally – that is they had electric shocks used at times and on parts of the body prohibited by law. Two animals were also beaten with a squeegee mop. And, in contravention of the law, cows were left in the stunning pen for far too long. One animal was left for more than an hour.
One man had his slaughter licence suspended and the Food Standards Agency (formerly the Meat Hygiene Service) admitted breaches of the law and began building a case for prosecution. However, Defra (the government department with the responsibility to prosecute) dropped the case saying it was ‘not in the public interest’. We have never had a credible explanation for its refusal to prosecute this company.