Up to 100 activists are set to gather in Westminster to protest over DEFRA’s inability to prosecute a slaughterhouse where workers had been filmed abusing animals.
Campaign group Animal Aid is calling for CCTV to be installed in all UK slaughterhouses after it secretly recorded footage of pigs being punched and having cigarettes stubbed out on their faces.
Workers at Cheale Meats in Essex were also caught kicking and dragging injured pigs into a stun pen.
Despite the video showing animals being abused and manhandled in breach of animal welfare legislation, DEFRA was unable to prosecute the slaughterhouse.
The department said it was unable to rely on evidence provided by a third party that it could not obtain under its own statutory powers.
Instead, the Food Standards Agency revoked the licence of one of the slaughtermen identified in the footage, while another slaughterman’s provisional licence was not renewed.
The agency also increased the level of monitoring carried out by its staff at the plant to ensure procedures were being followed correctly.
But animal rights activists said the FSA’s actions did not go far enough and have called for independently-monitored CCTV to be installed in all UK slaughterhouses.
Kate Fowler, Animal Aid’s head of campaigns, said campaigners dressed as blood-stained slaughtermen and pigs would gather outside DEFRA’s offices in London on Tuesday (30 August) to demand changes to laws around slaughterhouses.
“DEFRA does not want to prosecute these flagrant breaches of the law,” she said.
“And if the vets can’t or won’t act to stop the cruelties and if the slaughterhouse owners look the other way, who is there to stop animals from being abused at the most vulnerable time of their lives?
“Without independently monitored CCTV, such atrocities will go on indefinitely.”
Farm minister Jim Paice has previously said the government was considering using CCTV to ensure abattoirs abided by animal welfare rules.
“It’s clearly got a lot of attraction but it would be a massive investment,” he told Farmers Weekly.
“We are working with the Food Standards Agency – who are of course the people who go into the abattoirs – to find the best way forward. CCTV may be part of the answer.”
A DEFRA spokeswoman said: “We care deeply about animal welfare and have been horrified at the abuse shown in recent undercover videos.
“But it’s extremely unlikely that a case which relied on illegally-obtained evidence would end in a conviction, which is why we’re considering other action to clamp down on abuse, including making CCTV in abattoirs compulsory.”