Animal Cruelty at Halal Slaughterhouse Highlights Widespread Abuse in UK

A still from the video captured by Animal Aid shows a worker hacking at the sheep's throat. YouTube via Animal Aid

An animal charity which set up hidden cameras in a Halal abattoir has released footage revealing the slaughtermen abusing the animals before they are killed. The video, released by animal rights group Animal Aid, shows workers at Bowood Lamb abattoir in North Yorkshire kicking sheep in the face before having to hack repeatedly at their throats as the knife being used is not sharp enough.

The disturbing clip has called into question how humane religious slaughter is, as the traditional practice prohibits the animals from being stunned before they are killed. Last week an e-petition launched by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) to end non-stunned slaughter reached the 100,000 signatures, as new Food Standards Agency (FSA) data showed there has been a 31% increase in the number of cattle not stunned before slaughter for Halal meat production compared with the FSA's 2011 Welfare Survey.

However, the BVA acknowledged that 80% of Halal meat is stunned before slaughter and emphasised that their "concern does not relate to religious belief but to the animal welfare compromise of non-stun slaughter".

The Halal Monitoring Committee (HMC) UK, an independent organisation which monitors Halal products in order to ensure Muslims can be confident they are eating 'genuine Halal' meat have issued a statement saying that Bowood Lambs abattoir is not HMC certified.

The Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have ruled out any change to the current policy, saying that: "The government has no intention of banning religious slaughter". Despite the department saying they would prefer if animals were stunned before they were killed, DEFRA also emphasised that they "respect the rights of Jewish and Muslim communities to eat meat in accordance with their beliefs".

Including this latest example, Animal Aid has secretly filmed in a total of 10 randomly selected slaughterhouses and have found that nine of those were breaking animal welfare laws, implying the problem is widespread. Kate Fowler, a spokeswoman for the charity said there was a fundamental problem with the system.

"In almost all the slaughterhouses we've filmed in we've seen animals mistreated - being kicked in the face and belly. When they are not stunned there are of course problems and the knife used has to be razor sharp, which it obviously wasn't in this case. But the stunning process can also cause as many problems as it solves."

Fowler also blamed some of the violence on the "bullying" that occurs in the industry. "We've heard reports of wellys being filled with blood, people have eyeballs pinged at them. Anyone can become a slaughterman - they don't check if they've got convictions or anything before."

The group have called for CCTV to be installed in slaughterhouses with mandatory independent monitoring, something which the FSA insist they "encourage and support" and DEFRA commissioned a report to look into the issue, although they have since concluded that the use of CCTV "has limitations and relies on regular and consistent monitoring."

Dr Shuja Shafi the secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain distanced religion from the abuse filmed at Botwood: "Halal-ness doesn't come into it at all. What they're doing is contravening the law and it's disturbing. We will wait to see what the FSA recommendations are, but things like this bring into disrepute the large number of Halal slaughterhouses that work to standard."

There are currently 332 approved abattoirs in the UK, and every abattoir has the capability to carry out religious slaughter without stunning, once approved under European legislation.