Slaughterhouses for larger animals such as sheep, pigs and cows are very different from chicken slaughterhouses. They are also becoming more and more mechanized, like factories, but in spite of everything, they are the most terrible sight that I have seen in my life.
Most slaughterhouses are in large buildings with good acoustics and lots of dead animals hanging from the ceiling. The noise of clanging metal mingles with the shrieks of frightened animals. You can hear people laughing and joking with each other. Their conversation is interrupted by the shots of special pistols. There is water and blood everywhere, and if death has a smell, then it is a mixture of the smells of excrement, dirt, the entrails of dead animals and fear.
Animals here are dying from blood loss after having their throats cut. Although in the UK they must first be rendered unconscious. This is done in two ways – stunning with electricity and with a special pistol. In order to bring the animal into an unconscious state, electric forceps are used, similar to a pair of large scissors with headphones instead of blades, the slaughterer clamps the head of the animal with them and an electrical discharge stuns it.
Animals in an unconscious state – usually pigs, sheep, lambs and calves – are then lifted by a chain tied to the back leg of the animal. Then they cut their throats. The stun gun is usually used on large animals such as adult cattle. The gun is put to the animal’s forehead and fired. A metal projectile 10 cm long flies out of the barrel, pierces the forehead of the animal, enters the brain and stuns the animal. For greater certainty, a special rod is inserted into the hole to stir the brain.
The cow or bull is turned over and the throat is cut. What happens in reality is very different. Animals are unloaded from trucks into special livestock pens. One by one or in groups, they are transferred to a place for stunning. When electric tongs are used, the animals are placed opposite each other. And do not believe those who say that animals do not feel what is about to happen to them: just look at the pigs, who begin to thrash around in a panic, anticipating their end.
Butchers are paid by the number of animals they kill, so they try to work as quickly as possible and often don’t give enough time for the iron tongs to work. With lambs, they don’t use them at all. After the stunning procedure, the animal may drop dead, may be paralyzed, but often remains conscious. I saw pigs hung upside down with their throats cut, writhing and falling to the floor covered in blood, trying to escape.
First, the cattle are herded into a special paddock before using a gun to stun. If everything is done correctly, then the animals become unconscious immediately, but this does not always happen. Sometimes the slaughterer misses the first shot and the cow fights in agony while he reloads the gun. Sometimes, due to old equipment, the cartridge will not pierce the skull of a cow. All these “miscalculations” cause mental and physical suffering to the animal.
According to a study by the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals, about seven percent of the animals were not stunned properly. As for young and strong bulls, their number reaches fifty-three percent. In a hidden camera video taken at the slaughterhouse, I saw one unfortunate bull being fired with eight shots before he dropped dead. I saw many more things that made me feel bad: inhuman and cruel treatment of defenseless animals was the norm of the work process.
I saw pigs breaking their tails when they were driven into the stun room, lambs being slaughtered without being stunned at all, a brutal young slaughterer riding a scared, panicked pig around the slaughterhouse like a rodeo. Number of animals killed during the year in the UK for meat production:
Pigs 15 million
Chickens 676 million
Cattle 3 million
Sheep 19 million
Turkeys 38 million
Ducks 2 million
Rabbits 5 million
(Data taken from Government Report of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Abattoirs 1994. UK population 56 million.)
“I would not want to kill animals and I do not want them to be killed for me. By not taking part in their death, I feel that I have a secret alliance with the world and therefore I sleep peacefully.
Joanna Lamley, actress.