Animals Beaten, Boiled Alive, Left to Suffocate or Freeze to Death at UK Slaughterhouses
Shocking new data released by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) provides a glimpse into the immense suffering inflicted on animals killed by the UK meat industry.
According to the FSA, there were more than 4,000 severe breaches of animal-welfare regulations over the past two years at British abattoirs.
The incidents, recorded by vets and hygiene inspectors, are classified as severe if they cause animals “avoidable pain, distress or suffering”. They ranged from individual acts of cruelty and neglect by abattoir workers to systemic failures, such as faulty equipment and poor processes. Such incidents are occurring, on average, six times a day. And often, a single incident – such as an overheating transport lorry or a production line fault – can affect hundreds of animals.
Here are just a few examples of the recorded incidents:
- Many animals arrived for slaughter in appalling conditions – emaciated, too weak to stand, suffering from diseases, or with fractures or open wounds.
- Hundreds of other animals died during transport before they even got to an abattoir. In one case, 574 chickens died after being left on a lorry in very hot conditions. In another, 165 chickens died from hypothermia after being transported in the freezing cold. In yet another, 33 pigs were found to have died from suffocation during the journey to slaughter.
- Birds are often “overstocked” during transport and left inside cramped crates for up to 20 hours at a time.
- There were thousands of instances of animals who were not stunned properly – or at all – before they were killed.
- Chickens and pigs were boiled alive by being immersed in tanks of scalding-hot water used to soften their skin and remove hairs or feathers.
- Animals such as sheep and pigs were dragged and lifted by their ears, horns, wool, or tails.
- Staff actively abused animals on many occasions: for example, a cow was “violently slammed” against a wall following an argument between two workers. One worker beat three bulls with wooden sticks and an electric prod, and a haulier was caught on CCTV hitting and kicking cattle during unloading.
And these are only the incidents that were reported. It’s highly likely that many more instances of cruelty take place that never make it into the official logbooks. As a representative for the meat inspectors’ union commented: “Simply there are not enough staff to monitor animal welfare in areas like the killing rooms”.
It’s deeply disturbing that the already inadequate regulations that are supposed to safeguard basic welfare for animals killed for meat in the UK are being violated on a daily basis. However, in a system that slaughters 900 million animals a year and treats sentient living beings as disposable commodities, cruelty is inevitable.
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