As part of our campaign to expose the failings inside UK slaughterhouses, Animal Justice Project carried out a ground-breaking investigation inside the small, family run abattoir, G. & G. B Hewitt in Chester, which was published in The Times newspaper. Staggeringly, this abattoir had been rated by the government as “Generally Satisfactory” six years running.
Our shocking findings shine a light on the failings of a system that is designed to protect profit and maintain the institutionalised abuse of farmed animals.
The presence of both an official government veterinarian as well as CCTV inside Hewitt during our filming did little to prevent the gross pain and suffering of animals — just as CCTV did nothing to help ducks and prevent blatant breaches of the law in 2020 when Animal Justice Project filmed inside the Gressingham Food abattoir. Inside this slaughterhouse, staff mercilessly grabbed and shackled ducks, leaving dozens hanging by their delicate legs for well over the legal time limit allowed, all within full view of Gressingham Food’s own cameras. Similarly, in 2019, at ‘high welfare’ abattoir Pastures Poultry, the law was broken and birds such as guinea fowl and turkeys were literally plucked alive. Apparently fully conscious and frantically-flapping chickens entered scalding tanks in full view of workers. Their suffering was almost too unbearable to imagine.
It is clear that the system is designed to fail animals, that CCTV is the meat industry’s smokescreen, and that the public is being scammed into believing that all is ‘taken care of’ i.e. cruelty regulations are ‘followed’, with regards to the killing of animals inside UK slaughterhouses.
There were also multiple abuses of animals and the law by workers, including the manager. All this in front of CCTV, and the government’s own veterinarian — though she never left the lairage to check on animals being stunned and killed. All our findings were sent to the government, but we have yet to find out what (if any) action was taken. At demonstrations after the investigation took place, for months after in fact, the same workers were seen … clearly it was ‘business as usual’ within Hewitt.
Cows and bulls who entered Hewitt slaughterhouse faced torment, violence and abuse. Panic-stricken sheep endured callous handling and killing, and tiny piglets were brutally stabbed and thrown on the floor. Watch this terrifying Animal Justice Project undercover investigation.
“There are a number of instances where apparent breaches of the law are shown in Animal Justice Project’s video – incorrect use of electric goads, cattle repeatedly struck with a stick (one appears to be pointed and the law prohibits the use of pointed sticks), a sheep dragged by the horns, severely lame cattle, and one severely lame pig being presented for slaughter. Such animals are not fit to be transported. In several instances, immediately after ‘sticking’, slaughtermen are seen to start dressing pig carcasses. The law requires that pigs are bled for a minimum of 20 seconds.” – Alick Simmons, Former UK Government Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer and Former Food Standards Agency Veterinary Director
Many severely lame so-called ‘spent’ dairy cows – in other words, cows no longer deemed profitable for milk – were filmed being goaded into Hewitt and then into the stunning chute. Several struggled to walk and were visibly lame. One Jersey cow even arrived with her back legs shackled, clearly in no ‘fit state’ to be transported to slaughter. Many gentle cows entered in front of the veterinarian, who barely lifted her eyes as workers hit and shouted the animals through.
In one distressing scene, two huge bulls were viciously attacked for 40 minutes by three workers, including the slaughterhouse manager, because they were too frightened to move forward. The bulls, who appeared highly distressed, were shocked into submission with an electric prod and jabbed with an (illegal) pointed stick over 200 times. Other cows and bulls had sticks and electric prods pushed into their sides, their faces, their eyes and even into their rectums. Staff abused these animals, in full view of the slaughterhouse’s own CCTV, and sometimes in front of the veterinarian.
Animals who were stunned, were only shocked for a couple of seconds - not long enough to produce unconsciousness. Repeated equipment failures and careless stunning resulted in sheep waking up and thrashing whilst hanging upside down, even up until their throats were cut. A staggering 97% of pigs and sheep slaughtered during our filming did not have their throats cut within the 15 second time period stipulated by the Food Standards Agency.
The panic and distress that sheep faced inside this slaughterhouse was heart-breaking to see. These desperate individuals attempted to flee for their lives, jumping up at barriers and running from workers, but there was no escape.
This is a contravention of UK legislation. Staff failed to stun animals appropriately, and for as little as just one second. After being ineffectively stunned, pigs for example were strung up by their back legs and, still thrashing, had their throats cut. Workers also left pigs for too long before cutting their throats, resulting in the animals showing signs of regaining consciousness. Nearly every single pig that we filmed faced this grotesque and bloody ending
As the pigs bled out, kicking and jolting, the manager began to ‘dress’ the animals - much sooner than slaughter legislation allows. We caught on film the manager cutting the pigs’ ankles down to the bone and snapping the fragile limbs, far sooner than he should have done. This illegal and cruel act happened in full view of the slaughterhouse’s CCTV, and it happened multiple times.
It is likely that they had just been taken from their mothers and taken straight to the slaughterhouse. Vulnerable babies, full of joy and innocence, being forced to ensure excruciating fear, pain and suffering.
Tiny piglets – who barely reached the workers’ shins – were pushed into the stun room to be stunned. One by one, in front of each other. They were mercilessly hung over a door so that workers could cut their throats open. Staff often did not check afterwards to see whether it had been done properly. Signs of consciousness will have gone amiss.
Once their throats had been cut, they were thrown onto a pile of other dying piglets, thrashing around, with those at the bottom being suffocating and ignored by workers. This throwing of piglets onto a pile is a clear violation of the law as it prevents adequate checking of signs of life. Our cameras picked up that one individual did in fact show life signs, following inadequate stunning, and was smothered underneath other babies. This poor piglet was thrown into the scalding tank. Our footage shows the baby thrashing in the hot water tank. Clearly still alive. A worker was seen to be looking back at the piglet drowning but they continued to walk away.
Right in front of staff, vets, and the CCTV. Animal Justice Project’s cameras inside this particular facility reveals a system of violent abuse towards animals, considered the ‘norm’. Our findings are not “Satisfactory” .. but reveal what the government standards are when it comes to the treatment of animals at the time of their death.
It is clear from this investigation, and others, that non-compliances with legislation and the abuse of animals is commonplace inside UK slaughterhouses, and go unreported by veterinarians, contributing to the false belief that consumers have that everything is ‘under control’, and they can consume animals without guilt. At the time of publishing our Hewitt investigation, the FSA had not published data reported by the vet within Hewitt and refused Animal Justice Project this information when we applied using the Freedom of Information Act, 2000.
We must carrying out impactful investigations and campaigns to place pressure on this failing government and urge consumers to take power into their own hands by lobbying the government and choosing plant-based products and taking action for animals. Please support and share our work.
Charity Trust Number (1184965)
Company Number (09335745)
© Copyright 2022 | All Rights Reserved