Footage shows welfare breaches in UK horse abattoir
TWO slaughtermen have had their licences revoked after secret footage was taken showing maltreatment of horses at a UK horse abattoir.
The footage, broadcast by Sky News amid the furore over the ‘horse burger’ scandal, shows horses being beaten and illegal procedures in the process of slaughtering.
The incidents occurred at the Red Lion Abattoir near Nantwich in Cheshire, which slaughters British horses destined for European food markets.
The footage was obtained by the animal welfare group Hillside Animal Sanctuary, which fitted secret cameras at the abattoir.
They showed horses being beaten with an iron rod to encourage them into the pens, which in some cases were crammed with two or three horses.
The investigation also found that sick or injured horses were left untended overnight, rather than put down immediately, Sky News reports.
Craig Kirby, head of approvals and veterinary advice at the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said: “I was shocked by the footage and that is why we took immediate action to make sure the individuals involved could not continue to slaughter animals.
“The FSA takes animal welfare at slaughter very seriously, and we will always investigate and take action when we see breaches of the legislation.”
The FSA said it was reviewing the footage and carrying out further investigations with a view to a potential prosecution.
Former Government Chief Veterinary Officer Keith Meldrum told Sky News he was shocked by what he described as ‘appalling’ welfare breaches.
FSA statistics released to Sky News show a dramatic increase in the number of UK horses slaughtered every year, from 3,859 in 2007 to 8,426 in 2012.
In a statement, the Red Lion Abattoir said the incidents were ‘not the norm, but of an isolated nature’ and that they have taken disciplinary action against the individual featured.
“In attendance at the The Red Lion Abattoir are three full time Food Standards Officers comprising of an official veterinarian and full-time meat hygiene inspectors throughout production.”
The statement continued: “I agree horses should individually enter the stunning area and most certainly not three at a time. However, small horses and ponies having spent years together as companions are difficult to separate. Horse lovers would understand that.”
Hillside’s lead investigator said: “What we’ve found has shocked us deeply; animals left with horrendous injuries and horses shot on top of each other.”
The RSPCA said: “The footage is shocking and upsetting to watch. With the Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995 in mind, we have concerns that horses appear to be in the stunning pen at the same time rather than individually as the law requires.”
“We also have concerns about some of the animals that appear to be injured. We have requested a copy of the unedited footage with a view to investigating.”
It said the incident was further evidence of the need for CCTV to be compulsory in abattoirs.
According to the Food Standards Agency, 8,426 horses were slaughtered in the UK in 2012, up from 3,859 in 2007.
Roly Owers, chief executive of World Horse Welfare, called for Defra to install CCTV in all English slaughterhouses to aid enforcement.
“These practices are disgusting, appalling and totally illegal and they must be stopped immediately. There must be a full investigation, and operations at this plant must cease until new procedures are put in place and the FSA guarantees full compliance with the law.”