Breaches in farm animal welfare in Scotland have long been a serious issue in abattoirs across the country.
In less than two years, there have been over 700 serious breaches of animal welfare rules with cattle, sheep, pigs and chickens found injured, emaciated, diseased or dead on arrival at abattoirs. These findings paint a very bleak picture of what really goes on when Scotland’s farm animals reach the end of their lives, with incidents including:
• Animals being slaughtered while heavily pregnant
• Animals being repeatedly stunned before they were killed - one poor cow was stunned six times before it lost consciousness
• “Cannibalism” among chickens, which is a result of poor conditions
• Cases of “evident stress”
• Animals being found with bruising, broken legs or in poor health
Most the incidents, logged by the Scottish Government’s watchdog agency, Food Standards Scotland (FSS), involved cattle, but there were also 86 breaches recorded with sheep, 77 with poultry and 63 with pigs. Poor conditions during transport were to blame for a third of the recorded incidents, while a further 237 cases were due to inadequate conditions on farms.
Most of the incidents logged resulted in information being passed to trading standards or animal health officials. Four legal investigations were carried out, and the FSS issued 14 enforcement notices and gave verbal or written advice in 146 cases.
These truly alarming figures shows us that animal suffering in slaughterhouses is not restricted to the odd isolated incident. Industry representatives may say the numbers are a small proportion of the thousands of animals slaughtered in Scotland every year – but each one is an individual, capable of suffering, and each one deserves a life worth living, right to the very end.
How can we ensure that animals do not suffer unnecessarily at the end of their lives?
Well, the mandatory installation and full monitoring of CCTV in every slaughterhouse would be a good place to start. At the SNP Conference in October last year, we were delighted that the party agreed a motion backing legislation to make CCTV compulsory. This was a crucial step on the road towards legislative change, but it’s not going to happen overnight.
This suffering on farm, in transport and inside the slaughterhouse has been exposed before, yet still it continues. Only today, Gail Ross MSP will seek assurances from the Scottish Government that it will address these concerns. The press coverage of this horrific story will serve as a reminder to MSPs that the issue is very much still ongoing and needs to be tackled with urgency.