Animals are routinely failed because of routine breaches of 'welfare' legislation

The government’s decision to make CCTV in slaughterhouses mandatory across England in 2018, and Scotland in 2021 was applauded by ‘animal lovers’ across the UK. The Welsh Government has recently received the same praise for following suit, committing to introducing the same policy in order to “provide assurance that all slaughterhouses are operating to high welfare standards”. 

On the surface, it seems entirely logical that the Welsh Government's decision to imitate this requirement for CCTV in slaughterhouses would improve the experience of animals at the end of their short lives. But has this decision been made after considering evidence of a system which protects animals to a higher standard?

A system built to fail animals

You’d expect those operating slaughterhouses would make an effort to follow government guidelines, if they’re being monitored by cameras. Well, a new report by Animal Equality and The Animal Law Foundation has proven that this isn’t the case. Breaches of legislation supposedly drawn up to protect ‘farmed’ animals are still commonplace in British farms and slaughterhouses, and they’re going unchallenged.

After analysing the structure of the industry, data related to breaches of welfare laws, and looking into findings from undercover investigations conducted by organisations including Animal Justice Project, the ‘Enforcement Problem’ report has revealed that intentional violence is, on the  whole, not deterred by cameras or legislation like the Welfare at the Time of Killing (England) Regulations 2015 (WATOK) and The Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007

For starters, inspections just aren’t happening. Of the UK’s 291,000 farms, less than 3 in 100 of them had an annual inspection by any sort of public body between 2018 and 2021 - this comes as no surprise when we consider that only a single inspector is designated to oversee over 200 farms. Because there aren’t enough inspectors to go round, a ‘risk-based’ system is followed, meaning establishments are only really inspected after complaints have been made by veterinarians or whistleblowers. Even then, inspections don’t always take place, and animals are left with prolonged suffering in unbearable conditions, or subjected to intentional violence by workers. The report found that only 0.33% of complaints raised about UK farms over the past 4 years actually resulted in prosecution, largely because they aren’t being looked into!

Systematic abuse caught on camera is going unchallenged

Intentional cruelty and systematic disregard for animals’ feelings are constantly being exposed by animal rights organisations, in the same slaughterhouses installed with CCTV. Yet, 70% of the undercover investigations evaluated in Animal Equality and The Animal Law Foundation’s report resulted in no formal enforcement action. 

Our Scammed! campaign demonstrates just one example of no consequences being experienced by anyone responsible for animals in slaughterhouses, after clear legislative breaches were captured on camera. The investigation at G. & G. B Hewitt abattoir exposed the beating of frightened cows, sheep and pigs through hitting, kicking and tail-twisting. Painful injuries and severe health issues like lameness should have been picked up on and reported by the on-site veterinarian, after observing obvious breaches of government guidance that animals should be in a condition “fit for transport” before being driven to slaughterhouses. 

At a slaughterhouse owned by the UK’s largest duck ‘producer’, Gressingham Foods, we found more evidence of unreported abuses which breach legislation. We exposed birds being put through the distressing experience of being shackled roughly and hung upside down for up to 14 minutes, before being grabbed by their delicate necks. This was captured by the slaughterhouse’s own CCTV, yet nothing was done. Gressingham Foods still hasn’t been prosecuted, despite our petition signed by over 71,000 people calling for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to step in and do their job. They failed.

We must reject industries that exploit animals 

When we look at the pervasive culture of violence towards animals throughout sectors of animal agriculture, we can deduce that in practice, CCTV in slaughterhouses is a performative measure intended to comfort consumers. It makes those funding the systematic abuse of animals to satisfy their taste preferences feel better about their decision, so that industries can continue to profit from animal exploitation without being questioned by the masses. 

It’s up to us to hold accountable the lawmakers who create legislation which appears well-intended on the surface, without robust enforcement measures put in place to actually prevent breaches. And it’s up to us to point out that no amount of ‘welfare’ improvement is enough to make up for the oppression of sentient beings for corporate profit or consumer demands. 

No animal deserves to have their rights violated, or bodies exploited, for any reason at all. There is no ‘acceptable’ way to mutilate or kill an animal who has a personal interest in living a comfortable life, safe from harm. 

We need to expose animal agriculture for what it is: a profit-driven system that has been designed to fail animals. Exploited animals have voices which they use to voice their pain, fear and discomfort all the time - those put in charge of ‘protecting’ them simply don’t listen. When animals are being used to make money, profit will always come first. 

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