Yet another battle lost for animal rights advocates. A recent investigation by the The Food Standards Agency (FSA) in August 2016 has found that in the past two years, there have been more than 4000 severe breaches of animal welfare laws in UK slaughterhouses.
4445 violations reported
The FSA reported the investigation under freedom of information laws. Cases involved cruelty, violence and neglect of animals by lorry drivers, abattoir employees and farmers.
(Warning: graphic content below)
4445 cases of animal welfare breaches were deemed to be category four – the highest level of breach. In order to fall into this category, animals must be subject to from avoidable pain, distress or suffering.
Animals boiled alive
The FSA brought forward cases involving pigs and chickens being boiled alive to soften their skin and cattle freezing or suffocating to death in lorries. There were also reports of slaughterhouse workers violently slamming a cow into a wall, beating bulls with a wooden stick and a transporter hitting and kicking cattle. Pigs and sheep are often picked up, thrown and dragged by their ears, tails and hooves. These are examples of 'avoidable' pain, distress or suffering.
The suffering of these animals is caused by failing equipment, breakdowns on production lines and unsupervised procedures in abattoir lines. Many individual acts of cruelty and violence by slaughterhouse staff and farmers are also documented.
However, vets and meat hygiene inspectors working for the FSA claim there are still many cases that go unreported. They say the lack of staff and intimidating working conditions causes the under-reporting of many animal welfare breaches.
6 violations a day
The FSA released their investigation to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ), and the BIJ confirmed that there were an average of 6 category four breaches of animal welfare per day in the UK. They also said:
In total over the five years there were 16,370 breaches of welfare regulations, of which 6,241 were category 4. The vast majority of the most severe breaches happened as animals were transported from farms to abattoirs.
Neil Parish MP, the chairman of the Commons select committee for environment, food and rural affairs, said the results were shocking.
There is no place for animal cruelty at any stage of farm production – including the slaughterhouse. (…) It’s vital the authorities crack down on any abuses and ensure there is zero tolerance to any mistreatment of animals when slaughtered.
Besides cruelty and violence, there are other malpractices in UK slaughterhouses that require attention. A very prominent trend in 4000 the reported cases was animals not being properly stunned before being slaughtered. Boiling or disemboweling animals while still alive is an example of this. There are hundreds of animals that are dead upon arrival at the slaughterhouses, due to suffocation, dehydration, shock and trauma or freezing cold temperatures on the trucks.
These malpractices lead to bacteria in the meat that could infect consumers.
More than 900 million farm animals are killed for consumption each year in Britain. There are 317 approved slaughterhouses across the UK, run by a few large companies that monopolise the meat processing sector.
More CCTV footage required
It is unclear from the data how many of the breaches resulted in any sanctions or improvements. The FSA has said it has a 'zero tolerance' policy with regards to welfare breaches.
Meaningful protection for animals from the violence and incompetence that has repeatedly been exposed can come only from mandatory, independently monitored CCTV in all slaughterhouses. The government has dragged its heels for too long on this issue. But these latest revelations, combined with the findings of a new independent report, leave it with no choice but to act without delay.
Sign Animal Aid's campaign to add your voice to the scores calling for fairer treatment of animals in slaughterhouses.
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