More than 4,000 severe breaches of animal welfare rules were recorded in British slaughterhouses during the past two years, it has emerged.
The breaches are detailed in reports submitted to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) by veterinary and hygiene inspectors at abattoirs.
Details of the breaches were released following a Freedom of Information Request by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BOIJ), based at City University London.
See also: Cost of CCTV in slaughterhouses revealed
The bureau said equipment failures and poor procedures in abattoirs were resulting in thousands of animals being subjected to avoidable suffering each year.
Scores of individual acts of cruelty and neglect by slaughterhouse staff, hauliers and farmers were also documented, it said, alongside malpractice that increased the risk of food poisoning.
“Many animals are presented for slaughter in appalling condition, the records show – some emaciated or too weak to stand, others diseased or suffering from fractures and open wounds.
“Failures in stunning procedures – which can result in animals regaining consciousness before being killed – are commonplace,” said a report by the BOIJ.
Vets and meat hygiene inspectors working for the FSA inside abattoirs reported a total of 9,511 animal welfare breaches between July 2014 and June this year.
The bureau’s analysis reveals 4,455 incidents – or almost half the total number recorded – were category four breaches, which are deemed the the most serious.
The revelation is likely to fuel calls for CCTV to be installed in slaughterhouses.
But this would not prevent all breaches because the vast majority of most severe incidents happened as animals were being transported from farms to abattoirs.
Tiverton and Honiton Conservative MP Neil Parish, the chairman of the House of Commons select committee for environment, food and rural affairs, called for a government crackdown on cruelty at abattoirs.
The revelation that an average of six serious welfare breaches happened each day was shocking, Mr Parish told the bureau.
“There is no place for animal cruelty at any stage of farm production – including the slaughterhouse,” he said.
“This country prides itself as having some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world
“It’s vital the authorities crack down on any abuses and ensure there is zero tolerance to any mistreatment of animals when slaughtered.”