Dear The Rt Hon Thérèse Coffey,
Animal Justice Project has carried out a two-month undercover investigation following the industry-led review of the Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (England) Regulations 2015 (WATOK). Their investigation took place inside G. & G. B. Hewitt slaughterhouse in Cheshire over a period of eight days, collecting 200 hours of footage. The scenes were highly distressing and highlight the failure and inaction of this review set up to supposedly ‘protect’ animals at their time of slaughter.
Animal Justice Project’s investigation of a small, family-owned abattoir depicts the heart-breaking reality faced by farmed animals. The horrific and violent treatment of cows, pigs, sheep and young piglets was caught on Animal Justice Project’s cameras in full view of the slaughterhouse’s own CCTV. The presence of CCTV and the Food Standards Agency-appointed (FSA) Official Veterinarian did nothing to prevent the grotesque abuse of animals at Hewitt. The entire investigation leads me to question the efficacy and role of both the FSA and government vets, as well as the industry-led review of WATOK in January 2021.
Concerns have been raised about the under-reporting of non-compliances within UK slaughterhouses (1) and, following Animal Justice Project’s investigation, this is something I’m now also very concerned about. Given that the FSA is refusing requests (2) to publish non-compliance slaughterhouse reports from their own veterinarians, there appears to be a serious lack of transparency within this self-regulating industry.
I am calling for an independent review of WATOK, as a matter of urgency, that is independent of the FSA and the National Farmers Union (NFU). Industry bodies should not be reviewing areas in which they have vested interests. The government’s lack of commitment to action in the existing industry-led review has been highlighted by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) (3), and shows the need for a truly independent review.
Following the announcement that slaughterhouses will receive funding under the Agriculture Act (4) as well as the formation of the Abattoir Sector Group (ASG) (5) to support and develop small abattoirs around the UK, it is clear that these will be misdirected funds.
Both large and small slaughterhouses are rife with non-compliances and abuse. With only ten referrals (covering cows, pigs, sheep and goats) for investigation stemming from FSA audits over a year (6), it is clear to me that animals are not being ‘protected’, and breaches are being underreported. Animal Justice Project’s investigation of Hewitt — an abattoir recognised as a small, family-owned facility — highlights this well.
I call on you to halt all public funding to slaughterhouses under the Agriculture Act. This should coincide with funding being channelled into plant-based agriculture. Cessation of funding for slaughterhouses and the replacement of abattoirs with plant-based farming initiatives would present massive environmental benefits, including the elimination of blood run-off into waterways. Furthermore, the notoriously poor working conditions faced by slaughterhouse staff and resultant trauma (7)(8) would be eliminated with an overhaul of the entire system of food production. Finally, this would remove the need for costly, unsuccessful reviews and monitoring bodies such as the FSA.I sincerely hope that you act as a matter of urgency on the back of this shocking Animal Justice Project investigation.