Abattoir probed after disturbing spy camera footage

An investigation is under way after secret cameras recorded what is claimed to be evidence of animal suffering and abuse at a Cheshire abattoir.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is probing evidence gathered during a two-month undercover investigation of the G & G B Hewitt site in Chester.

The Animal Justice Project (AJP) alleges that one clip shows a live piglet thrown into a scalding water tank, while other footage is said to show piglets having their throats cut before being thrown onto a pile, without any checks for signs of life.

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The group also claims that it has compiled evidence of insufficient stun times, the beating of cows and bulls, and the hacking into the throats and limbs of animals while they are still thrashing.

The slaughterhouse has not responded to requests for comment. The Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS), speaking on its behalf, described some of the claims as “simply nonsense,” but added that it “seemed likely” that some animals had been “treated unacceptably” in the footage.

The AJP also claimed that there were occasions caught on camera when the official veterinarian at the site was not in the stun or kill rooms.

Footage captured appeared to show a piglet, still alive, being placed in a scalding hot water tank
Footage captured appeared to show a piglet, still alive, being placed in a scalding hot water tank

This, the organisation said, meant the vet may not have witnessed the alleged abuse of the animals taking place.

The FSA has said it has staff in slaughterhouses during operating hours, and CCTV is mandatory.

A spokesman said: “The Food Standards Agency takes animal welfare at slaughterhouses very seriously and an investigation into these allegations is underway.

“We have staff present in slaughterhouses during operating hours and CCTV, where there are live animals, is mandatory in slaughterhouses in England as part of measures to monitor and enforce animal welfare requirements.

“We are working closely with the slaughterhouse team and the relevant CCTV footage has been assessed by FSA vets.

“As this is part of an ongoing investigation with potential for criminal proceedings, the FSA cannot comment further at this stage.”

Claire Palmer, founder of Animal Justice Project states: “Our 200-hour undercover investigation, which took place following an industry-led review of UK slaughter legislation in January, reveals extensive suffering and abuse.

“These were daily occurrences within this Chester-based abattoir. We believe issues are being unseen and under-reported.

“Instead of ploughing public funding into the abattoir sector, at a time when even the United Nations is pushing governments to promote plant-based eating, it must urgently address the fact that the system is failing farmed animals at their time of death.”

The AJP claims CCTV was present inside the abattoir, as required by law, but it did not act as a deterrent
The AJP claims CCTV was present inside the abattoir, as required by law, but it did not act as a deterrent
(Image: Animal Justice Project)

Stephen Lomax, director of the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS), responded on behalf of G & G B Hewitt Ltd.

Mr Lomax, a former vet with 40 years of meat industry experience, said AIMS “deplores” any breaches of animal welfare laws.

He added: “AIMS deplores any breaches of the law regarding animal welfare in meat plants and supports the highest standards.

“In particular, AIMS applauds the free press and NGOs whenever they identify problems that government officials have either missed or ignored.

“Many of the allegations listed by these animal rights activists in this case are simply nonsense, either misleading, ill-informed, or deliberate fabrications. However, it seems likely that animals have also been treated unacceptably in this film.”

“Everywhere in this and every other abattoir where there are live animals is continuously recorded on CCTV and the filming retained, legislation which AIMS supported.

“I therefore believe that comment should be delayed until the Food Standards Agency (FSA) have released and analysed the official footage. These activists are not campaigners for improved animal welfare but seek the abolition of livestock farming and even the keeping of animals as pets and companions, hence their willingness to manipulate, distort and mislead.”

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Cheshire Live – Cheshire