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.”

Readers' comments (33)

  • just seen this report on sky news,its absolutely disgusting the way these animals are being treated,i hope the people responsible are equally treated as bad if not worse and made to suffer,at very least be locked up for their cruelty .

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  • I myself have worked with horses for 12 yrs and still hold great love for them. I did not have the heart to watch the video the pictures were enough, horses are sentient beings aware of what's going on they must of been absolutely terrified. I can't put into words what I'd like to do to those men they should be at first publicly shamed. No animal in the world should be treated like this no thought for the horse was taken into consideration at all the men are obviously numb to their feelings doing that awful job it should be the extreme opposite. Lots of thought. Just really awful. Very very sad.

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  • Eating breakfast with my family this story at 8.30 am was not the right time to see such awfull practices with no morals. Make you wonder why you don't turn vegetarian for moral reasons.

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  • This is clearly ILLEGAL treatment and slaughter.
    It's a great shame the local knacker yards were ever closed down.... as were other local, small abattoirs where slower and more individual attention was given.

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  • I saw the news & was horrified at the treatment of these nobel animals, utterly disgusted,

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  • As Red Lion abattoir states that there are '3 Food Standards Officers in attendance throughout production', perhaps these people need sacking and prosecuting, for failing to carry out their duties! I do not believe that the incidents were isolated or that an owner of a company, does not know what is going on. I hope the abattoir has to close and the owner/s and all involved are prosecuted, named and photograhs of the guilty published. Horses are pets, and not agricultual livestock, meant for the food chain. God knows, we'll be eating cats and dogs next! Thanks to the animal welfare group, for bringing the information to the attention of the public, and the press for publishing it.

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  • SICK SCUM put them in a cage and taser them and hang them upside down see how they like it. should be made a law that if you are rich enough to purchase a horse it is for life and either the horse dies a natural death a visit to the vets or they pay for it to be cared for . i bet those race horses brought thousands for the owners surely they shouls have more respect than selling it on for horse meat for a few bob

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  • This will all be forgotten soon that's the sad thing. Once the media find something else to report on (probablary a "celebrity" rubbing up against another) the public will soon forget this sad story. However we must not allow this to happen and must keep the important news at the fore front of the media, sad times we no live in.

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  • I'm outraged! I've been passing on World Horse Welfare's petition all day via social media in the hope people will sign it. If you're interested in getting this stopped please visit their website and sign the petition, it only takes a minute or so.

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  • Trust me,this is not an isolated incident! I have been in these premises and it is the bowels of hell,the conditions are horrendous with not one ounce of compassion or kindness shown. It all starts from the horse auctions til the day they die. They are nil by mouth from the weds sales til execution day on friday. Mr and Mrs Turner, you should hang your heads in shame

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