Warning: the video embedded below in this story contains footage some users may find distressing

Two halal slaughtermen danced and sang as they hacked at sheep’s throats, causing the animals extreme suffering, a court has heard.

One former company director and three workers were handed suspended prison sentences for causing unnecessary suffering after sheep were filmed being mistreated.

The case was brought against staff at Bowood Farms abattoir at Busby Stoop, near Thirsk, North Yorkshire.

See also: CCTV to be compulsory in abattoirs in England

It followed covert filming by the charity Animal Aid in December 2014 that revealed a host of shocking incidents of animal cruelty, which was passed on to the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

Two of the slaughtermen, Kabeer Hussain, 44, and Kazam Hussein, 55, both of Bradford, were seen dancing and singing as they killed the animals, Leeds Magistrates Court heard on Friday (2 March).

Howard Shaw, prosecuting on behalf of Defra, told the court that a large number of sheep suffered unnecessarily.

Animal Aid said it uncovered a “remarkable weakness” in the application of the halal code. Animals are supposed to die quickly after a “single cut with a surgically sharp knife”.

Sheep taunted with knives

But workers were also found taunting and frightening the sheep by waving knives, smacking them on the head and shouting at them.

One worker was filmed repeatedly hacking at the throats of conscious sheep. Another was filmed standing on the neck of a conscious sheep, and then bouncing up and down.

Slaughterhouse workers laughed as a sheep bled to death with spectacles drawn around her eyes in green paint.

Hidden cameras revealed sheep being kicked in the face, smashed into solid objects headfirst, picked up and hurled by their legs, fleeces, throats and ears.

William Woodward, company director at Bowood Farms abattoir, from Daventry, Northamptonshire, was sentenced to 20 weeks imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, and 250 hours of unpaid work in the community.

He was also disqualified under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) from having influence or control over sheep and told to pay £5,000 court costs.

FSA: ‘Unnecessary suffering’

Conveyor belt operator Artur Lewandowski, 33, of Ribble Drive, Darlington, was given 150 hours of unpaid work, as well as an indefinite disqualification order under the AWA for control over sheep. He was also ordered to pay £100 costs.

Mr Hussain and Mr Hussein admitted causing suffering and were given 16 weeks and 18 weeks imprisonment – both suspended for 12 months – along with 250 hours unpaid work. Both were also disqualified under the AWA of control over sheep and ordered to pay £500 costs.

Commenting on the case, the FSA said the defendants “chose to ignore the regulations, in the process inflicting unnecessary suffering on the animals”.

The FSA added: “We hope this sends a clear message to other abattoirs that fail to uphold the required standards: we will investigate and we will look to prosecute.”

Warning: the video below contains footage some users may find distressing

This video is not representative of the typical slaughter process, which is conducted in a respectful and humane manner with animals stunned prior to being killed, in an environment which is designed to minimise stress on the animal.