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UK – Animal Aid undercover investigators secretly filmed the inhumane practices of several slaughterhouses. The shocking footage revealed the cruelties heaped upon the animals. These abuses prove that the slaughterhouse industry cannot be trusted to self-regulate its animal welfare standards.

This Is Dorset

A major investigation by undercover animal welfare activists into sickening violence and illegal practices in the West’s abattoirs, first revealed in the Western Daily Press last year, has had a “huge impact” on the slaughterhouse industry.

After the Press reported how animals were mistreated in one Somerset abattoir last September, the undercover investigators from Animal Aid went to another slaughterhouse in Dorset and found similar breaches of regulations that led to animals suffering horrible treatment in their final moments.

Last night Animal Aid finally published its full report into the investigations, which also covered abattoirs in Devon and Cornwall, and outlined how it was changing the way slaughterhouses across the region were run.

The investigation saw Animal Aid activists first go undercover at AC Hopkins, near Taunton, and secretly install hidden video cameras which captured shocking scenes of a slaughterman kicking pigs, failing to stun them properly and even stunning a sow as her piglets suckled her.

After that investigation, secret filming took place at a second West abattoir, ABP in Sturminster Newton, Dorset. That Soil Association-accredited slaughterhouse had its contract with Sainsbury’s suspended by the supermarket giant after investigators filmed a slaughterman taking as many as four shots with a bolt gun to stun cows sent for slaughter.

As a result of the Animal Aid action, the continuing self-regulation of the slaughterhouse industry has been put on hold, and supermarkets like Sainsbury’s and the RSPCA’s Freedom Food scheme are taking on the meat industry to ensure better standards.

The RSPCA said it would only give Freedom Food accreditation to slaughterhouses that voluntarily fit CCTV cameras for inspectors to view, while supermarkets are withholding contracts to abattoirs that fall below the correct standards.

And Bristol University is even using the footage captured to train vets and Soil Association inspectors.

A spokesman for Anglo- Beef Processors, which runs the Sturminster Newton abattoir, said: “We are extremely disappointed that the covert filming by Animal Aid has identified some breaches of our group welfare policy.

“We expect animal welfare to be nothing less than an absolute priority and any breach is unacceptable.

“Since the incident took place, a robust and comprehensive series of actions have been implemented including new equipment and the installation of new CCTV cameras. We have also undertaken a comprehensive retraining programme of all staff who have a responsibility for handling animals,” he added.

At the time of the revelations about AC Hopkins in Somerset, a spokesman for the slaughterhouse industry, speaking on behalf of the Creech St Michael firm, said Animal Aid’s footage should be taken in the context that more than 100 hours of film was shot but less than half an hour was offered in evidence of malpractice. “It was an isolated incident,” he said.

Animal Aid’s Kate Fowler said: “We have revealed a shockingly brutal industry that pays little heed to the welfare of animals.

“Supermarkets and other retailers should put pressure on slaughterhouses to install CCTV,” she added.