Slaughterhouse CCTV in focus after abuse claims

By Michael Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Animal Aid claims the video shows widespread abuse
Animal Aid claims the video shows widespread abuse

Related tags Animal rights Livestock Food standards agency

Claims that slaughtermen routinely abused sheep at a slaughterhouse run by Bowood Lamb, near Thirsk north Yorkshire are likely to highlight the role of CCTV in protecting animal welfare.

Pressure group Animal Aid released a video filmed secretly at the abattoir over three days last month claiming to document a string of animal abuses.

Alleged abuses included: sheep kicked in the face, throwing sheep by their legs, fleeces, throats and ears and a worker bouncing on the neck of a conscious sheep. Slaughtermen also taunted and frightened sheep by waiving knives and smacking them on the head and shouting at them.

Four slaughtermen have had their operating licences revoked by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), pending an investigation of the claims. The FSA said it suspended the licences immediately because it takes animal welfare very seriously. “There is no excuse for treating animals in the way shown on the video and we are, therefore, investigating the footage with a view to prosecution,”​ said the agency in a statement.

“We are also continuing to investigate all the circumstances around the incident to ensure proper safeguards are introduced to stop this happening in the future.”

‘Vicious attacks’

Animal Aid head of campaigns Kate Fowler said in a statement: “The vicious attacks on defenceless and frightened animals are inexcusable.”

But Bowood Lamb's solicitor Jamie Foster denied that animal abuse at the slaughterhouse was routine. “Animal welfare is something Bowood takes extraordinarily seriously,”​ he told BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today. ​Most slaughter in this country is done to the highest welfare standards. There are occasional problems and this certainly was one of them,” ​said Foster. One slaughterman depicted in the video had been dismissed for gross missconduct, he added.

CCTV in abbatoirs

“It​ [CCTV] was being properly monitored. The problem is you can put in as many prophylactic​ measures as you like, human beings are frail. At some point, a human being will do the wrong thing.”

Jamie Foster, Bowood Lamb solicitor

The pressure group is urging the government to make independently monitored CCTV cameras compulsory for slaughterhouses. “Yet, despite our evidence of widespread, violent attacks on animals, it resolutely refuses,”​ claimed Fowler.

“During the course of our investigation, we discovered remarkable weakness in the application of law that required all animals to be stunned prior to being killed, unless the meat is intended for Muslim or Jewish consumers,”​ said the pressure group.

The FSA had told Animal Aid that any slaughterhouse can practise non-stun slaughter without demonstrating that the meat is destined for religious communities, the pressure group claimed.

Religious communities

Members of Parliament (MPs) are due to discuss the role of CCTV in slaughterhouses later today (February 4), as Henry Smith, Conservative MP for Crawley, leads an End of Day Adjournment debate.

The FSA published research recently revealing that about 55% of slaughterhouses are routinely equipped with CCTV. Camera-equipped slaughterhouses are estimated to handle 98% of all poultry produced in the UK. Its survey of animal welfare in slaughterhouses published last Thursday (January 29) claimed standards had improved since the last survey in 2011.

Animal Aid
Animal Aid released disturbing video footage of the alleged abuses

Its results showed 96% of red meat slaughterhouses and 96% of white meat slaughterhouses complied with animal welfare regulations. That compared with 86% and 84% respectively in the 2011 survey.

The survey also confirmed the number of animals slaughtered without stunning, in accordance with religious rites, accounted for 15% of sheep and goats, 3% of poultry and 2% of cattle.  

Meanwhile, should all UK slaugherhouses be equipped with CCTV? Test your views against those of other readers by taking part in the quiz below.  


Should all UK slaugherhouses be equipped with CCTV?

  • Yes: Technology should be used to protect animal (and human) welfare

  • No: Present safeguards are sufficient to protect welfare in the vast majority of cases

  • Maybe: But who should pay for their installation?

  • Don't know


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Not good enough

Posted by Ben Martin,

Mr Foster claims that the CCTV was being properly monitored, yet multiple people were seen committing acts of animal cruelty all day for 3 days on Animal Aid's footage. Either he is lying, or the people monitoring the CCTV also failed to do their jobs and are complicit in these crimes.

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abuse of sheep

Posted by carole hobbs,

I am disgusted by this. Please do not brush this under the carpet as happened at the red lion slaughterhouse. After a week or two it all goes quiet. This must not happen again.

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