Animal Justice Project’s two-month undercover footage, obtained from family-owned slaughterhouse, G. & G. B. Hewitt, Cheshire, revealed atrocious animal abuse and gross negligence from staff, including the slaughterhouse manager, Mark Hewitt. Animals were illegally tormented in front of a Food Standards Agency-appointed Official Veterinarian and the slaughterhouse’s own CCTV, which failed to deter unlawful behaviours.
Consumers are being scammed into believing that CCTV, veterinary checks and monitoring from the Food Standards Agency are protecting animals from unlawful acts of cruelty. Keep reading to discover what truly takes place inside British slaughterhouses.
Petrified bulls, panic-stricken sheep and tiny piglets were subjected to unimaginable cruelty within the walls of Hewitt.
‘Spent’ dairy cows – no longer deemed profitable by the industry – limped sorrowfully through the lairage. A pair of gentle bulls were shocked in the ‘chute’ with an electric prod and a pointed stick when they had nowhere to go. They were jabbed over 200 times as they were froze in fear. This distressing-to-watch attack took place over 40 long minutes and resulted in the shooting of the panicked animals.
This sickening scene evidenced multiple breaches of the Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (WATOK) legislation, flouting UK law. Legislation clearly states that animals must not be deliberately frightened or mistreated during movement, and that workers must cease electric shocking if the animal doesn’t respond.
The slaughterhouse manager disturbingly grabbed sheep and restrained them as they had their throats cut without being stunned at all. Fighting for their freedom, distressed sheep were physically dragged into the kill room by their horns. Many were stunned for as little as two seconds and equipment failed multiple times. The dragging of these anxious animals by their horns is yet another breach of WATOK, further demonstrating the slaughterhouse’s blatant disregard for the law. WATOK guidelines clearly state that animals must not be lifted or dragged by their head, ears, horns or fleece in a way that would cause pain or suffering.
Recently stolen from their mothers and taken to the slaughterhouse where they met a callous end, tiny piglets were shown no mercy at Hewitt. Innocent babies were stunned one by one with electric tongs, as their friends and siblings looked on in fear. Their tiny bodies were then slung over a door, where their throats were cut. Workers failed to check for signs of life as the piglets were thrown, thrashing and convulsing, into a bloody pile.
One individual – a piglet who was underneath all the others on the pile – showed signs of not being properly stunned and ‘bled out’. We were shocked and heartbroken to capture on film this tiny individual being thrown, apparently alive, into the scalding tank. Our cameras showed them thrashing around in the scalding water. A worker was seen looking back at the writhing piglet who appeared to be drowning, but they ignored the extreme suffering and walked away.
Repeated failures of stunning equipment, which is in contravention of the law, and careless stunning, resulted in multiple sheep showing clear signs of consciousness, even as their throats were cut open. Over 97% of the pigs and sheep slaughtered during our filming did not have their throats cut within the Food Standards Agency recommended 15 seconds allotted time – a further reason why sheep began to regain consciousness. On four of the eight days that we filmed, stunning equipment failed, pre-stunning and shocking animals on their delicate faces.
As the pigs ‘bled out’, kicking and jolting, the manager of the slaughterhouse began to ‘dress’ them, much sooner than the the length of time stated within slaughter legislation. Our undercover cameras also caught the slaughterhouse manager cutting the pigs’ ankles down to the bone and snapping them, far sooner than he should have done. The agony that these pigs would have felt is beyond imagination.
The immediate “dressing” of pigs’ legs is highly illegal.The slaughterhouse manager failed to wait the required 20 seconds before cutting the ankles of several pigs. He neglected to check for signs of life, meaning that these individuals likely suffered from excruciating pain in their final moments.
Many of these severe cases of abuse and illegalities took place in front of a Food Standards Agency-appointed Official Veterinarian, who failed to intervene and defend the animals that they are employed to protect. The slaughterhouse’s own CCTV cameras caught every atrocity; however,this did not deter staff from torturing the vulnerable animals. It is clear that Food Standards Agency – the UK government’s food watchdog – is failing to protect animals.
“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. 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. The overall impression given is of routine poor practice in premises barely fit for purpose. The circumstances are made worse by poorly trained and poorly supervised operatives.” – Alick Simmons, Former UK Government Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer and Former Food Standards Agency Veterinary Director
Food Standards Agency-appointed veterinarians and CCTV are failing to prevent major breaches of legislation.
In January 2021, an industry-wide review of the Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (WATOK) legislation took place. The UK government stated that the review would “provide significant opportunity to identify key themes for improvement”. And yet it does not address the glaring problems Animal Justice Project encountered during this investigation, and does nothing to illustrate the real horrors animals face in abattoirs.
How has G. & G. B. Hewitt been rated “Generally Satisfactory” for six out of seven of their last audits, despite the bloodbath of abuse and violence caught on our undercover cameras?
Animal Justice Project’s investigation inside Hewitt slaughterhouse adds to the compiling evidence that CCTV does not deter intentional or systematic abuse towards animals. In 2020, our cameras inside Gressingham Duck’s abattoir revealed shocking horrors and major law breaking – in full-view of their own CCTV cameras. Live birds were left hanging by their delicate legs in metal shackles for over 14 minutes and workers mercilessly grabbed and shackled ducks.
In 2019, at family-run farm and abattoir, Pastures Poultry, Animal Justice Project cameras revealed yet another major flaw in CCTV legislation: small producers are exempt from the requirements. Serious breaches included guinea fowl and turkeys being plucked alive, conscious chickens entering scalding tanks and a complete lack of checking for signs of consciousness entering these hot tanks.
CCTV is the meat industry’s smokescreen.
Animal suffering is going unseen and unreported. Our research has revealed a staggeringly low number of non-compliances reported in Food Standards Agency audits.
Over a 12 month period, 23,786,300 cows, pigs, sheep and goats were killed inside FSA-approved slaughterhouses. Of these animals, there were just 291 non-compliances reported, affecting 3,604 animals. Only 10 were referred for investigation. For almost 24 million animals! These figures do not include poultry.
Despite announcing an ‘Open Data’ policy in February 2021, the Food Standards Agency have refused several Freedom of Information requests made by Animal Justice Project on animal welfare breaches within UK slaughterhouses over the past three years, animal welfare breaches recorded by veterinarians, and non-compliance data from Hewitt slaughterhouse. Negligent FSA-employed veterinarians and the general misuse of slaughterhouse CCTV – which is not routinely or randomly seized by governing bodies – have caused animal suffering to go largely unseen and unreported.
But it is important to remember: the system is not broken. It is purposefully designed to fail animals, protect profit and maintain the institutionalised abuse of farmed animals. An industry that exploits animals for profit cannot be trusted to protect them. Our government is at the heart of this system of exploitation and our findings demonstrate their disregard for the rights of farmed animals. The public is scammed into believing that our government ‘protects’ farmed animals. We must now hold the government accountable for their inaction.
Please take action now by sending our pre-written letter to the government, calling for an independent review of WATOK and an immediate cessation to the public funding of slaughterhouses under the Agriculture Act 2020.
It is up to US to protect farmed animals and to stop taxpayer money from being used to support slaughterhouses. Please donate today. We are in desperate need of donations to continue our vital work.