Horse Abattoir Film Reveals Welfare Breaches
Sky News has uncovered shocking animal welfare conditions at a UK horse abattoir.
They include animals being beaten, neglected and illegal procedures in the process of slaughtering British horses destined for European food markets.
It comes amid public anger that some of our biggest supermarkets have been selling beef burgers and other products that contained horse meat.
Sky News visited the Red Lion Abattoir near Nantwich in Cheshire after concerns were raised by Animal Welfare Group Hillside Animal Sanctuary.
Investigators at Hillside fitted secret cameras which filmed horses being beaten with an iron rod to encourage them into the pens.
Some were then crammed into the slaughter pens in pairs and, on one occasion, a group of three, before being stunned together.
In harrowing images the horses fall on top of each other. Under The Welfare of Animals Act 1995, horses should not be slaughtered in sight of one another because of the distress it causes.
Furthermore, Sky News found that sick or injured horses were left untended overnight rather than put down immediately.
As a result of the investigation, two slaughter men have had their licences revoked.
Craig Kirby, head of approvals and veterinary advice at the Food Standards Agency (FSA) told Sky News: "As soon as we got the footage and reviewed it we took immediate action to revoke the slaughter men's licences.
"That means they cannot work to slaughter animals again. We will also look to gather further evidence to see if we can prosecute."
Former government chief veterinary officer Keith Meldrum, who viewed the footage, said he was shocked by what he described as "appalling" welfare breaches.
"We see three animals stunned at the same time and it is totally illegal and contrary to welfare slaughter regulations," he said.
"It's a significant welfare problem for a number of reasons. It's harder to render them unconscious in a group and they have a higher chance of regaining consciousness before you've completed the procedure."
Another incident filmed included a horse that appeared to come round from the stun while being hung upside down before being bled. Mr Meldrum described it as "totally and completely unacceptable".
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.
Depending on the size and breed they are bought for anything between £100 to £300 and can fetch around 700 euro on the European meat markets.
The animals come from a variety of backgrounds. Some are former pets, others come from show jumping or the race track.
A report last year from the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) found: "The number of thoroughbreds reported dead to the Horse Passport Issuing Authority rose by 580 - an increase of 29% - from 1994 to 2574 horses.
"Of these, 1127 horses either in training, breeding or out of training were reported as killed in abattoirs - and reported to the Government Meat Hygiene Service - from 499 horses in 2010, an increase of 126%."
However, in a statement to Sky News, the BHA added: "This is a wider equine issue and not an issue for the British racing industry, which is one of the country's most highly regulated equine pursuits.
"However, if there are allegations that any horse, whether thoroughbred or not, is being inhumanely treated in an abattoir we would fully support any investigation and subsequent action, if appropriate."
During the investigation, Hillside Animal Sanctuary rescued one racehorse called Underwriter by bidding against the abattoir at auction. They discovered it had a distinguished career.
John Watson, from Hillside, said: "It's not just ill and old horses being killed. There are very many fit and healthy horses, horses with foals, pregnant mares, and thoroughbreds that are being treated badly.
"It blows away the myth of humane slaughter, and there is a misery in that place that is palpable."
Hillside's lead investigator, who did not want to be identified, added: "What we've found has shocked us deeply; animals left with horrendous injuries and horses shot on top of each other.
"In all the years I've been doing this work, without doubt it's the most harrowing experience I've come across. All the horses in there had their heads hung down."
The Red Lion Abattoir told us it views animal welfare and public health with paramount importance.
In a statement it said: "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."
It said the incidents were "not the norm, but of an isolated nature" and they have taken disciplinary action against the individual featured.
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.
"My opinion and that of other veterinarians is it is better to keep those types together to reduce the stress, providing swift dispatch is achieved."
The Red Lion Abattoir also insisted it meat was not part of the recent supermarket burger scandal.
The horses there are destined to be served in European food markets. The scandal this time is the way they are treated, in the last moments of their lives, in a licensed British abattoir.
Roly Owers, chief executive of World Horse Welfare, viewed the footage and said: "The breaches, from what we've seen, are throughout; from the care of the animals to the slaughter process.
"Horses are intelligent animals. When they see an animal stunned in front of them you can only imagine the distress that animal is going through. There are, without doubt, welfare issues here and it is plain illegal."
The RSPCA said "The footage is shocking and upsetting to watch." They have requested a full copy of the film with a view to investigating.
what do you think?
Criminal procedures should be taken against anyone who was involved in, or knew about this abuse. Truly dispicable how in 2013 we are still ok with mass animal slaughter in the name of cheap food!
red lion slaughter house, who owns it? who works in it? why should these people (orange won't let me say the words i want to) be allowed to get away with this? and we british say we love animals! SHAME on us all!
How I agree martyn-g... No one in their right mind could treat animals in such a way. I was alarmed to read shuan spencers post admitting he worked for the RSPCA. Didnt seem that this so called animal protection authority is doing much to stamp out any animal abuse
I work with the rspca and one occasion we had reason to visit a slaughter house and what we found there turned our stomachs we were treading on all manner of things, eyes were crunching under our feet, tonges, tails and all sorts of unidentified things.it was such a bad experience i turned vegatarian .these men that tend to work in these places dont see animals as living creatures but already see them as pieces of meat.they become apathetic to the animals which leads to bad treatment.i believe if the public were to visit some slaughter houses many would come out as vegetarians.
Its got to be said there have been vast improvements since my experience at this slaughter house, both in how the animals are treated and their transportation but there are still many practices that are still cruel going on and there is very much room for improvement.members of the public should be allowed to visit these places even just to educate themselves as to where their food comes from.
I worked in one for 2 years as a young lad. Brutal job, but it was humane. And i still love a good steak! The eyeballs and tongues are just part of the job- we are meat eaters. Its just that we are now sophisticated and efficient at getting our fix. Still, animals need to be treated with dignity before they are slaughtered and the abusers punished.
WHO PROTECTS THE ANIMALS..IF I SHOWED THIS TO MY GRANDAUGHTER SHE WOULD CRY...SHE LOVES HORSES..BUT THESE SLAUGHTER HOUSES ITS JUST PROFIT
David A horse is no different from a cow sheep or pig. It is a source of meat
The owners and workers of this company should hang their heads in shame. The film made me physically sick. The barbarity that was inflicted on these poor innocent animals is criminal, and as such the owners and workers should be prosecuted as criminals and sent to prison for a very long time. I hope this company is boycotted by any company or person needing animals slaughtered, I hope the owners suffer financial ruin and feel some pain albeit in their pockets. All I can say is they deserve evrything they may get coming to them.
A lion ripping an animal apart isn't nice, a fox ripping a chicken apart isn't nice, any predator killing its prey isn't nice but that is nature and the way things are. We are by and large meat eaters so the killing of our prey isn't nice, but unless you want to hunt it yourself someone has to do it. I wouldn't like to work in a slaughterhouse, but I appreciate and respect those that do, standards must be maintained but if you want to show true sympathy to those animals then stop eating them.
A lion hunts and eats for necessity, not profit. And I believe the film is highlighting the unnecessary neglect and cruelty, and isn't meant to encourage people to become vegetarians.
As a butcher and slaughterman guidelines were put in place to protect the animals welfare even though its piecework u try to keep the animals as distress free as possible if I worked for red lion abattoir I would walk out and report the owners and slaughtermen myself
You notice that it is not the RSPCA doing this, it is not in their current agenda. They are busy with support of various political campaigns. Also do the Europeans who consume horseflesh care at all about the source or welfare? When you open a tin of dogfood do you think of that unwanted pony going on its last miserable trip? Where are all the antis now when you want one?
I'm glad I'm a vegetarian. I get lots of flack for it but I have always maintained that animals do suffer in abbatoirs. Being a vegetarian and having respect for animals has made this news article very distressing...I didn't realise that animals suffered to this extent. I didn't think that in our health and safety nanny state country that something like this could go unnoticed. Makes the Adopt a Snow Leopard Ad pale into insignificance.
These types of places should be subject to a One Strike And You're Out law.
Yes exactly, thats why i say the public ought to be allowed in such places.as it stands at the moment the rspca would be tresspassing in such a place unless they have a police escort.so have to rely on secret filming like this for evidence.
It just makes me cry, I can't understand cruelty to animals, and I never will.....
ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTING. anyone that abuses animals in any form should be SEVERELY punished.
Oh dear. I watched up to 01.50 and stopped the video. When an item in the news comes with a "distress" warning, I aways watch. Not much shocks me. This, however, especially when I realised the hanging horse was ALIVE, really has upset me. I have helped prepare animals for the abbattoir in the past, and been to one with my dad. It was never a lovely experience (I am an animal lover and my farmer dad is frequently amazed at my empathy!), but conditions were clean and animals were more like driven through rather than beaten and forced. Regardless, I still don't eat meat, though I am not vegetarian, but even those who do probably don't eat horse and would be shocked by these pictures.
Im glad you made that comment as i thought i might watch it just so i knew what the film contained, see it for yourself sort of thing.but after your comment i think im gonna pass on it as i just know it will badly upset me.
I can't watch it, movvi, bit cowardly of me I think, just wish I could do something :-(
I know what you mean, both. While I believe these things should be shown to move people into action, I find it too hard in this case. I am moved into action already! It's not cowardly not to want to watch such misery at all. As long as the brutality is communicated, not everyone will need to see it. I'm actually still shocked.
i couldn't watch the video either. too upsetting
You don't have to be a vegetarian to be disgusted and upset with this. I really hope that they are prosecuted and given the maximum penalty, and that this acts as a deterrent for other abbatoirs.
So, if, as some say, "we are what we eat", how is it that lions and tigers don't resemble ... giraffes or wildebeests or wild boars? It is, I think because they are lions and tigers and they aren't what they eat, is what I think. As for this video, I'm not at all surprised, really because humanity are well known to be disgusting in their behaviour although it does "appear" as though some people are trying to reduce the suffering of those horses. Then again, there is the famous saying, "Appearances cand be deceptive". Are they even trying to reduce the suffering of those horses or make some money from it for themselves by rescuing the horses? Will they even sell those rescued horses to an abbattoir later on and thereby make twice as much money?
Evil.I was iears when i read it.Infact i couldn't read all of it as it's far tloo upseting for me.Animal cruelty laws really need toughing up & also on this sort of thing.
Agree, upset me too...
Remember what Jim Royal said about cheap meat? "Its full of holes. . . Earholes, eyeholes and a***holes!"
I remember when i was eighteen i went out for the night with an rspca inspector to try and catch some men on film badger baiting with dogs.i tell you i was blooming scared hidden in the pitch black silence listening to every snap of a twig.hedgehogs suddenly sounded like great big animals.i ended up hoping the men wouldnt appear which thankfully they didnt.but the fumny thing was is that if we had been caught doing this there was a chance we could get prosecuted for tresspassing let alone filming on the farmers land without permmission. Anyway having said this do peaple on here think the rspca should be given police powers to investigate such things as this slaughter house, farming practices ie battery farms and peoples homes if theres a suspicion of animal cruelty.
yes i would give them more powers
This comment has been removed for violations of our Terms and Conditions.
The puishment to fit the crime will not happen it never does because those in charge are weak. or hide behind the EU mask that we have to follow procedure. Why are cameras not set up right through in the first place which can be watched by anyone with an interest on the animals wefare and any tampering massive fines and imprisonment. Those algerian soldiers didn't show weakness or mess about straight in and kill the perpetrater. job done. Unfortunate for those that died but they would have been killed anyway. poor soles just trying to earn a living.