Exposed: religious slaughter cruelty
Despite shocking new evidence of animal cruelty at a halal abattoir, the British Government continues to oppose the banning religious slaughter.
Scenes of “gratuitous” abuse of animals, according to the Independent, are contained in secretly filmed footage showing abattoir workers repeatedly hacking at sheep’s throats, hurling them into solid structures and kicking them in the face.
Four slaughtermen at the North Yorkshire abattoir had their operating licences suspended by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) after the scenes of brutality were caught on camera.
The footage shows animals being treated with “gratuitous violence and contempt”, according to the charity Animal Aid, which carried out the investigation.
The film emerged days after a petition demanding that slaughter without pre-stunning be outlawed passed the 100,000 mark, adding pressure on political leaders to bring in fresh curbs on inhumane practices in abattoirs.
Last night the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs repeated it had no intention of banning religious slaughter. It said the Government preferred animals to be stunned before they are killed, but respected the rights of Jewish and Muslim communities to eat meat in accordance with their beliefs.
Last week David Cameron’s official spokesman said Mr Cameron remained firmly opposed to a ban. He said the Prime Minister still stood by the view he expressed in Israel, in support of those traditions.
The covert filming at the Bowood Lamb abattoir in Thirsk, North Yorkshire, shows workers hacking and sawing at throats in contravention of Islamic practice, which requires animals to be killed with one clean sweep of a knife. In one instance it took five attempts to sever blood vessels.
One worker, who is wearing the traditional Muslim kufi skullcap, recites the words Allahu Akbar (God is great) as he wields his blade. Other images captured during the filming of the slaughter of 400 sheep over three days show:
• Sheep being kicked in the face and head, lifted by their ears, fleeces or legs, and hurled into solid structures.
• A worker bouncing up and down on the neck of a sheep that is still conscious.
• Staff laughing over a sheep bleeding to death with spectacles drawn around its eyes in green paint.
• Knives being sharpened in front of sheep, which also saw other animals being shackled and hoisted.
• Sheep falling from a chute on to a slippery floor in the kill area and frequently thrown head-first into a solid upright structure, which is part of the conveyor.
The FSA said:
Four slaughtermen have had their licences suspended and we are investigating. It means they can’t operate as slaughtermen and work with live animals.
When the FSA has finished investigating, it will need to consider if there is sufficient evidence of a breach of animal welfare legislation to justify a referral to the Crown Prosecution Service.
Asked about the allegations, William Woodward, one of the abattoir’s directors, said the firm had no comment. But, according to the BBC, Jamie Foster, a solicitor speaking on behalf of Bowood Lamb, said the incidents were “hugely regrettable”.
He said that a picture of a slaughterman standing on the neck of a sheep:
Fell far below the standards that Bowood would find acceptable, and that individual was immediately dismissed for gross negligence. But it isn’t right that this is routine because Bowood is a company that takes animal welfare extremely seriously.
Incidentally, the video in the BBC report shows the faces of the abusers, but in footage posted today on YouTube, blurring hides their identities.
Animal Aid, the charity which recorded the footage, felt compelled to issue a lengthy statement acknowledging its fears that the footage could inflame religious hatred, but insisting the images were so shocking that they had to be released in the public interest.
Withholding release of the footage would be a betrayal of our key mission: to expose and combat animal cruelty.
Bowood Lamb is the 10th slaughterhouse in which we have filmed undercover since January 2009. As with the others, we didn’t know what we would find when our cameras were planted, including that it was a halal establishment – the first we have investigated.
The charity continued:
The feature that distinguishes it [Bowood] from the traditional ‘humane’ English slaughterhouse is that it kills animals without pre-stunning.
Jewish and Muslim religious authorities assert that death by the shechita or halal methods, without pre-stunning, is instantaneous and painless. A body of evidence demonstrates that this is not a credible position, and our new footage removes any remaining doubt.
Rather than animals being treated with compassion and being uninjured prior to the fatal cut, we see them routinely treated with gratuitous violence and contempt. Additionally, many of the sheep in our film are not dispatched with a single clean cut but have their throats hacked at repeatedly with a knife that is either blunt or being used ineptly.
Compassionate people whatever their religious beliefs, or none, will be appalled by the treatment endured by these animals.
An RSPCA spokeswoman said:
The public has a right to expect that all farmed animals have as painless and humane an end to their lives as possible…This footage sounds absolutely shocking.
The petition calling for an end to non-stun slaughter has been championed by the British Veterinary Association, which has warned ministers that they “simply cannot ignore the strength of public feeling” over animal welfare.
Hat tip: Antony Niall and Angela K