Animal Justice Project has used a brand-new tactic in our investigations – an undercover worker! Infiltrating Morrisons' Spalding slaughterhouse, Woodhead Bros, we have gained a firsthand, personal insight into the terrifying final moments that pigs and cows face before their lives are stolen away in the most horrific way.
Forced into a gas chamber and shocked with electric prods, animals were repeatedly assaulted whilst in full view of CCTV and in the presence of a Food Standards Agency-appointed 'Official Veterinarian'. CCTV is the meat industry's smokescreen and here is why we must never accept that it is there to 'protect' animals...
Killing 3,000 pigs every day, Woodhead Bros slaughterhouse was a hotspot for efficiency, to the detriment of the animals. Pigs were rushed through 'races' to the gas chamber, being hit repeatedly with paddles on their backs, hindquarters, faces and delicate snouts, and were aggressively shouted and sworn at.
Food Standards Agency vets witnessed much of the ongoing abuse and suffering, but failed to intervene. These vets are inside abattoirs as a tool to 'protect' public health and so-called 'animal welfare'. All whilst in the presence of CCTV.
Morrisons was the first supermarket to implement CCTV to 'reassure the public of good welfare practice at slaughter'. The grotesque abuse filmed by our undercover worker was all caught on Morrisons' own CCTV. CCTV is the meat industry's smokescreen.
Who is actually watching the footage? The FSA has access to what is filmed, but CCTV footage is not randomly or routinely seized from slaughterhouses. It is there to maintain reassurance of ‘good welfare’ to paying customers, and not actually to ‘protect’ animals, as it is portrayed. Footage is also deleted after just three months. Audits by the FSA, which are announced, give slaughterhouses fair warning to comply with standards. Woodhead Bros in Spalding received a ‘good’ rating in their last audit, the highest possible score. This rating is in stark contrast to what our undercover worker caught on camera.
Within the time that our undercover worker was present at Woodhead Bros, animals were verbally and physically abused. They were sworn and aggressively shouted at, pigs showed severe lameness, had large hernias and critical respiratory distress, panicked cows were hit and had electric prods used on them.
“The fact that all of this abuse is overseen by vets who were employed by the slaughterhouse just brings home how ingrained this abuse is.” - Undercover investigator
Almost 11 million pigs are killed in the UK each year and 86% of them are gassed; that's 10 million individuals who face the gas chambers of a ‘gondola’. It is a method commonly used on pigs, as well as birds. The animals are trapped in an environment where the oxygen levels are dropped very low and other gasses like carbon dioxide are pumped in. It has been known for many years that this method of stunning pigs causes untold pain, yet it continues to be the most popular method for pig and bird slaughterhouses.
“It's been studied and proven to be aversive, which means that when that gas hits it's painful in their lungs, it feels like a burning sensation, and they're suffocating as well.” - Dr Alice Brough BVM&S MRCVS
Despite the FSA giving this abattoir a rating that reflects “no issues of significance”, we captured ongoing legal breaches of slaughter legislation such as The Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (WATOK), and the DEFRA Codes of Practice. Despite their names, each of these pieces of legislation are in place to aid and complement the exploitation and killing of animals, and will never ‘protect’ them.
‘Non-compliances’ are breaches which may affect animal or public health. They can include lameness, injury and even dead animals. In 2022, 4,310 non-compliances were reported, affecting 902,412 animals. Of these, only 16 were referred for investigation. That’s a mere 0.37%. Our undercover investigations show time and time again an abundance of legislation and guideline breaches, yet this is not reflected in the data. Pigs arrived dead at Woodhead Bros and others were so lame that they were killed before reaching the gas chambers. Non-compliances were evident, abundant and largely ignored by officials.
In the time it will have taken you to read this blog, around 200 pigs will have been forced into UK gas chambers. Unimaginable suffering is taking place in slaughterhouses every day and we must do what we can to fight for the rights of animals. Through unwatched CCTV, vets ignoring clear violations, the under-reporting of non-compliances and FSA audits not reflecting the reality of day-to-day abattoir activity, it is clear that the system is not broken, but is designed to fail animals, protect profit and maintain abuse. Although this was hard to read, please let it empower you to stand up for animals and not allow their screams to go unheard. Together, we are a powerful force and we will never stop trying to make the world a better place for everyone.
For the animals.