by David Gutierrez
An undercover investigation into an organic slaughterhouse has challenged the assumption that ethically certified meat is any better than the regular kind.
The British animal welfare organization Animal Aid secretly planted cameras inside a slaughterhouse operated by Tom Lang, whose facility had been certified for the “humane slaughter” of organic animals by the Soil Association. The organization chose Lang’s slaughterhouse precisely because it is certified to the highest standard available in the United Kingdom.
Forty hours of secret footage uncovered tightly packed animals being driven up to the facility, where they were chased into the factory by men beating them with sticks. Inside the facility, the animals are beaten once more to be herded into place. In one case, a man is seen punching, kicking and kneeing a pig, then striking it with a steel stunning tong at least 20 times, as the animal screams.
Striking animals is a violation of Soil Association rules and national slaughtering regulations.
Regulations also require that animals be killed or have their throats slit within 15 seconds of being stunned, yet the tape shows animals left for much longer. One sheep was hung upside down for at least 50 seconds, during which time it began to jerk and struggle before being stabbed.
After the release of the video, the Soil Association rescinded Lang’s humane slaughter certification. The Meat Hygiene Service suspended three slaughterers, opened a criminal investigation and implemented an increase in random checks of the facility.
A Daily Mail article notes that such welfare violations are widespread, with 166 slaughterhouses throughout the United Kingdom being reprimanded and 33 being prosecuted on more than 450 different occasions in the past three years. These cases do not reflect practices occurring when inspectors are not around.
In some cases, inspectors are intimidated out of reporting violations, an anonymous source told the Mail.
‘”If you become rigorous about enforcing the rules the slaughtermen become very aggressive,” he said. “They tell you bluntly that if you’re too keen, they will simply run over you with a truck or push you into a machine, but it would look like an accident.”