A slaughterman slits the throat of sheep, then cuts off their heads while they are still alive.
Secret footage shot inside a West Country slaughterhouse has reignited a row over abattoir cruelty, following a series of undercover films that have shed new light on the way animals are killed behind closed doors.
Yesterday Morrisons became the first supermarket to promise to install CCTV at its abattoirs to reassure the public. The RSPCA called for other chains to follow suit. The supermarket said CCTV images from its Colne and Turriff abattoirs would be stored for 30 days and made available to the Food Standards Agency (FSA). Spokesman Martyn Fletcher said: "Our customers want to know that animals are treated well through the slaughtering process and we believe installing CCTV cameras is the best way to demonstrate we have the highest possible standards."
Slaughterhouse cruelty has been under the spotlight after Animal Aid captured breaches of welfare laws at six out of seven randomly selected abattoirs - including one supplying organic meat, where pigs were kicked in the face. Across the UK animals were kicked, slapped, stamped on and thrown into stunning pens.
In its latest investigation, the animal rights group placed a hidden camera in F Drury & Sons, in Wiltshire. Established in 1924, the firm tells customers: "Whatever your requirements you can be assured of the finest service in a modern abbatoir, with excellent facilities and staff working to the highest standard of animal welfare."
But when Animal Aid filmed, sheep that had been stunned were decapitated straight after their throats were cut. Under the 1995 Welfare of Animals Slaughter or Killing Regulations, 20 seconds must elapse after throat-slitting to ensure animals have bled to death. F Drury & Sons director Chris Drury disputed the firm had broken the law. "We are fairly confident we haven't broken any rules," he said.
After viewing the footage, however, the FSA said there had been breaches and stepped up veterinary checks and "recommended improvements". No legal action is likely, however.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs this year dropped prosecutions against five abattoirs based on Animal Aid's 18-month investigation on the grounds courts would throw out film obtained by trespass. Animal Aid questioned the decision, saying its own legal advice indicated the cases could have succeeded.