Page last updated at 15:58 GMT, Friday, 11 September 2009 16:58 UK

Inquiry into cruelty at abattoir

Worker in a slaughterhouse
Serious breaches of animal welfare legislation were found at the abattoir

A slaughterman's licence has been suspended and a Somerset abattoir faces prosecution after secret footage showed "callous" animal welfare breaches.

Food Standards Agency (FSA) executives are considering criminal action against bosses at AC Hopkins and the individual slaughterman caught on film.

Animal welfare activists Animal Aid managed to install secret CCTV cameras in three abattoirs across England.

They are now calling for CCTV to be placed in all UK slaughterhouses.

Secret footage

The unnamed slaughterman was seen stunning multiple animals - strictly forbidden by EU law - and stunning a ewe as it suckled a lamb.

As a result of the publication, the employee was immediately removed from working with live animals at the firm in Creech St Michael.

He will not be permitted to work with live animals while the investigation proceeds, and faces the permanent withdrawal of his licence.

We believe that millions of animals across the country are suffering untold torment when they are stunned and killed
Kate Fowler, Animal Aid

Animal Aid shot 40 hours of secret footage at three abattoirs over six months from January to July.

From that they compiled a 10-minute clip, published on YouTube and the group's own website.

Footage from an abattoir in Cornwall led to official advice on 'areas of improvement', while images from a Derbyshire site failed to reveal any breaches.

Kate Fowler, Head of Campaigns at Animal Aid, said: "We believe that millions of animals across the country are suffering untold torment when they are stunned and killed.

"Animals were kicked, hit, goaded, sworn at and stood on. In our view, one worker in particular combined incompetence, stupidity and callousness."

The Meat Hygiene Service (MHS), which is carrying out the investigation for the FSA, said: "Animal cruelty within a slaughterhouse will not be tolerated."

They added there was "evidence of serious breaches of animal welfare legislation in one of the three slaughterhouses filmed."

Veterinary supervision

Speaking on behalf of AC Hopkins, lawyer Stephen Lomax, of The Association of Independent Meat Suppliers, said: "We don't support anything less than the very highest standards.

"Exposure of bad practise is in the interests of the whole livestock industry.

"The man who is being investigated had worked for three months for AC Hopkins when the recording was made.

"He had previously worked for many years for a large abattoir which is now closed, and holds a certificate having been trained in animal welfare but the standard of his work was not satisfactory."

Mr Lomax pointed out all abattoirs are supervised throughout by veterinary and meat hygiene inspectors.

"The company is disappointed the official vet did not notice any problems and had expected any to be drawn to the owner's attention," he added.



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