Animal Justice Project has filmed using spy cams inside the abattoir of supermarket giant, Morrisons.


Spalding, Lincolnshire (May, 2023) -
As seen in The Times on Monday [1], a film has emerged taken by an undercover agent working for animal rights organisation, Animal Justice Project [2] inside the abattoir of supermarket giant, Morrisons [3, 4]. The harrowing footage, captured late last year at Woodhead Brothers at Brunel Road, Pinchbeck, Spalding PE11 3YY – a slaughterhouse killing around 2,500-3,000 pigs a day [5] - shows abattoir staff, in full view of CCTV and sometimes the government watchdog Food Standards Agency (FSA)’s Official Veterinarian [6], using paddles to violently coerce pigs along the ‘race’ and into a gas chamber or ‘gondola’. Workers used electric prods on cows and pigs arrived off transporters lame and collapsing in the race. The findings will be sent to the authorities, Red Tractor, RSPCA, and Morrisons.

FILM: (clean version with no text overlay available)


Morrisons states “We believe that having CCTV cameras independently reviewed is a clear way to demonstrate that we have the highest possible standards” [7]. Yet Animal Justice Project says the scenes reveal a brutal culture towards animals in UK abattoirs, that legislation and guidelines are ignored, and that CCTV is failing to prevent poor practice.

The supermarket claims that Woodhead Brothers were the first abattoir in England with staff qualified in the Welfare at the Time of Killing (England) Regulations 2015 (WATOK) standards [8, 9], yet our findings show clear breaches of WATOK [10, 11, 12] with regards to the moving of animals, as care was not taken to ensure they were not frightened, excited or mistreated.

Key Findings:

- Yelling, swearing (e.g. “cunts!”, “bastards”) and hitting. Despite regulations underlining the need for calm and quiet moving of animals in slaughterhouses. The use of paddles was excessive, loud, angry, forceful, and in quick succession on the pigs’ backs and hindquarters, when the animals had nowhere to go. Paddles were used from all angles by the abattoir staff, and sometimes on the pigs’ faces. This misuse of paddles is prohibited according to Defra rules which state ‘when moving animals you must not frighten, excite or mistreat them’. [9] In addition,  the Defra code of practice for the welfare of pigs (2019) states that ‘pigs should be moved at their own pace with the owner/keeper staying behind the pigs’ [13]. Contrary to the code of practice, pigs were rushed and hit along the race when they had hundreds of pigs ahead of them and had nowhere to go. The Defra code also states: ‘Pigs have a very wide angle of vision and are easily disturbed by novel objects, sudden movements, variations in lighting or sudden noise’ [13]. The footage shows stressed pigs responding in panic and trying to escape the paddles – eyes wide, ears back, screaming, and mounting each other.

The code further states: ‘Excessive force must not be used. It is not acceptable to strike or kick pigs.’ [13] Yet pigs were struck routinely.

- Electric prods used on cattle. There is less footage of the handling of cows at Woodhead Brothers, however, the footage does show indiscriminate hitting by staff when the animals have a gate in front of them and cannot move forward. On one occasion, a worker wearing a supervisor or Animal Welfare Officer uniform is seen hitting cows for over two and a half minutes with a paddle. On another, an electric prod is immediately used on a cow, whereas it should only be used as a last resort. Red Tractor specifically states that ‘aids which administer electric shocks (goads) are only used where all other possible measures have been exhausted and goads are not used repeatedly if an animal refuses to move/fails to respond’ [14].

- Pigs unfit for travel. Morrisons states that supplier farms are required to implement a behaviour management plan to prevent lameness and that they monitor [15] and manage the welfare of animals in lairage [15]. Both Red Tractor and Defra state that pigs transported off the farm must be fit for the intended journey [16, 17]. Pigs unable to bear weight on all legs should not be travelling. Morrisons drivers are also required at each stop to ensure that all animals they pick up are healthy and fit to travel [7]. However in a single day, the agent filmed ten pigs with visible health issues - six displayed obvious signs of lameness and had weight bearing issues, one was unwell and exhibited a head tilt, and three pigs had hernias/growths. On the same day, a further three pigs who were unable to move were shot on-site.

Lame animals (both pigs and cows) came off transporters each day and, on two days, pigs had collapsed and were unable to walk.

- Failure of CCTV. Morrisons has more than 80 CCTV cameras across its three abattoirs [7] and claims to have been the first supermarket to install CCTV inside its abattoirs to ‘reassure the public of good welfare practice at slaughter’ [7]. The supermarket - one of the largest producers of pork [18] - claims that every animal in their chain ‘is treated with care and respect, and is content’ [7]. All of the above instances of poor practice occurred in front of several CCTV cameras which covered the entire lairage, as seen on the agent’s footage.

Ex-pig veterinarian Dr Alice Brough MRCVS, who viewed the footage, said “Pigs are being subjected to severe stress, in what is already a very frightening environment for them. Some are unloaded with problems like extreme lameness, hernias and other ailments that would render them ‘unfit for transport’. Workers are then seen to handle them without care, in some instances using excessive and inappropriate force.

On several occasions, pigs are hit with paddles - intended for use as noise-making devices - when they have nowhere to go. This shows either a lack of understanding of pig behaviour or a complete disregard for their welfare; the frequency with which this happens is disturbing.

A farmed pig’s life is miserable from start to finish, and here they are not even afforded a dignified or calm end”

- Inhumane slaughter. In 2017, Morrisons moved from electrical stunning to CO2 stun-kill measures [19, 20], despite welfare concerns and calls for it to be banned from the (then Labour) government’s advisory body, Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC) as far back as 2003, which stated “the use of high concentrations of CO2 to stun and kill pigs is not acceptable and we wish to see it phased out in five years” [21]. Despite this, a fully-automated stunning system (Somnia) is currently used, where pigs are pushed into gondola cages and lowered into a chamber of high concentrations of carbon dioxide gas in order to induce unconsciousness. The gassing of pigs was shown in The Guardian recently [22].

Claire Palmer, founder of Animal Justice Project describes the method: “From their first lungful of gas, pigs in gondola systems are burning from the inside out.”

On June 17, 2020, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded in a report: "Exposure to CO2 at high concentrations (defined in their opinion as higher than 80% by volume) is considered a serious welfare concern because it is highly aversive and causes pain, fear, and respiratory distress” [23, 24]. In 2022, Humane Slaughter Association and DEFRA stated: “Alternatives to carbon dioxide (CO2) stunning for the commercial slaughter of pigs are urgently needed because there is robust evidence that exposing pigs to hypercapnic environments is associated with pain, fear, and distress” [25].

Palmer says: “After viewing the shocking scenes of pigs being hit in Morrisons’ lairage, it is grim to know that these fully aware, intelligent animals were then going to face the gas chamber - a new, utterly indefensible, high bar for animal suffering that the average consumer would never condone, nor want to support.”

- Failure of authoritative action. FSA – responsible for monitoring standards in abattoirs - gave Woodhead Brothers a consistently high rating in its annual audit over the past five years - ‘good’ or ‘generally satisfactory’ [26] which means there were no issues of significance for animal health or welfare noted [27].

Animal Justice Project claims that for years animal welfare investigators have documented legal violations on farms and in slaughterhouses across the UK. Under-reporting of non-compliances has not only been exposed by Animal Justice Project, which has investigated dozens of farms and abattoirs since 2019, but has also been highlighted in a report by Animal Equality and The Animal Law Foundation [28], which concluded few farms are inspected, enforcement is not taken seriously, and law-breaking often goes unpunished, which acts as little deterrent for farm workers and abattoir operatives [28]. In 2022, there were only 4,310 non-compliances reported in 2022 for pigs, cows, sheep, goats, poultry or turkeys) [29]. Just 16 of these were referred for investigation concerning 1,265 animals [29]. This number is all the more shocking considering that a staggering 1.1 billion land animals are reared and killed for human consumption every year [30].

Palmer concludes: “Consumers are misled into believing the ‘best animal welfare standards in the world’ hype. Undercover investigations consistently show blatant abuse taking place in full view of official government vets and CCTV cameras. The sad fact is, nobody is going to watch hours of daily footage, it is only watched when the vet reports an issue. Farmed animals in this country continue to be unseen and unheard. The driving factor for change very much rests with the consumers”.

Animal Justice Project is an animal rights organisation based in the UK with over 200,000 followers and an 8-year history of campaigning to end animal agriculture and exploitation.


- 11.2 million pigs were killed in 2022 and the last available figures reveal around 86 percent of pigs are gassed
- In England, CCTV in abattoirs has been mandatory since 2018 and the Welsh government recently opened a consultation on compulsory CCTV in abattoirs as part of its animal welfare plans set out in 2021
- At this abattoir, the ‘OV’ (Official Veterinarian) wore a green jacket with a white hat

- At this abattoir, the ‘AWO’ (Animal Welfare Officer) or supervisor wore blue overalls with a white hat
- Britain’s ‘big four’ supermarkets – Asda, Morrisons, Tesco, and Sainsburys – all source meat from pigs killed with carbon dioxide stunning

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