5 January 2001

French pig abattoirs come under EU fire

By Philip Clarke

SEVERE cases of animal cruelty and insufficient health checks have been found in French pig abattoirs, according to a recent report from the EUs Food and Veterinary Office.

An inspection visit to a number of French slaughterhouses and cutting halls last summer revealed a catalogue of abuses, ranging from failure to inspect carcasses properly to the transport of pigs suffering from chronic diseases and infected fractures.

"In the last slaughterhouse visited, the mission team observed one animal on the conveyor belt after stunning that had not been stuck or bled," says the report. "The animal recovered and jumped off the conveyor belt just before the chaining was due to take place."

Particular problems were identified in the area of operational hygiene. "In one slaughterhouse visited there was no satisfactory partition between unclean and clean areas due to the lack of a ceiling. Rooms were badly constructed, walls were not washable and overhead was very dirty with cobwebs and birds nests."

In another plant, blood was collected for human consumption in an unhygienic way and there was no sterilisation of breast saws before post-mortem examination. "Some carcasses were observed in the chilling room with visible faecal contamination in the pelvic area and with oil contamination from the conveyor rails," the inspectors noted.

Record keeping was often poor, they added, and there was evidence of health certificates and export certificates being signed by veterinary officials, without proper checks being performed on the meat.

"The certificate of traceability in the cutting plant visited could only trace back to the production date and not the origin," says the report. "And certificates stated that the meat was of French origin only, even though meat of different origin was cut on the same day."

Further problems were identified with post-mortem inspections. Staff had received only partial training, inspections were incomplete and it was not possible to tell which offal belonged to which carcass. "Blood was collected without any possibility to link the approval for human consumption with the rest of the post-mortem inspection."

The reports findings have been condemned by UK trade representatives. "There is clearly scope for enormous improvement," said Ann Petersson of the National Pig Association. "It is now up to the commission to put pressure on France to get its house in order."

Brussels has given the French authorities one month in which to take corrective action. &#42