It is terrible enough that horse meat has been found in burgers in the UK. Two slaughterhouse workers were recently fired from the Red Lion Abattoir near Nantwich, Cheshire, after animal welfare advocates from Hillside Animal Sanctuary released an undercover video showing extreme cruelty to horses.
The video footage is sickening, showing horses being illegally stunned in groups of up to three. Under the U.K.’s Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995, horses can only be in the stunning pen individually, as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says in the Daily Mail. As Roly Owers, CEO of World Horse Welfare, says:
Horses are intelligent animals. When they see an animal stunned in front of them you can only imagine the distress that animal is going through. There are, without doubt, welfare issues here and it is plain illegal.
With that in mind, it’s even harder to think about the suffering of the horses at the Red Lion Abattoir. The video also shows them being beaten with metal rods. One horse who was stunned seems to come to consciousness while hanging upside down and just before having its throat cut.
In a statement, the Red Lion Abattoir claims that “three full time Food Standards Officers comprising of an official veterinarian and full-time meat hygiene inspectors throughout production” are “in attendance” and that the incidents were’”not the norm, but of an isolated nature.” To justify breaking the rule of only having one animal at a time in the stunning area, the abattoir says that it is “difficult” to separate horses and ponies who had “spent years together as companions.”
The RSPCA says it has asked to see Hillside’s unedited footage “with a view to investigating.” This is certainly necessary but the larger issue remains that, despite the existence of laws regulating the slaughtering of animals in abattoirs, such abuse has still occurred.
It is impossible to read these stories of horse meat in hamburgers and of horses cruelly killed and not feel outraged. But, as Jay Rayner writes in the Guardian, if you’re someone whose economic circumstances dictate that you must buy food that is cheaper –one such economically priced “value range” burger from the British company Tesco was found to contain 29 percent horse meat — then you are likely to read these stories with a “deadened sense of despair” as such “non-quality” has become the norm on your dinner table because that was all you could afford.
The discovery of horse meat in hamburgers and the abuses at the Red Lion Abattoir make it all too clear that the system of safeguards, rules and regulations is flawed. Outside and independent monitoring of abattoirs and facilities processing of our food are just plain good horse sense.
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