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Graphic videos spark calls for greater oversight of French slaughterhouses

L214 website | Screen grab of a veal being slaughtered at a facility in the southeastern French town Puget-Théniers
3 min

Animal rights groups have called for tighter monitoring and control of France’s fresh meat industry, after two disturbing videos emerged on Wednesday showing the mistreatment of animals in slaughterhouses.


The footage is the latest in a string of graphic images released by the animal rights group L214 over the last eight months.

Filmed between November 2015 and May 2016 at two slaughterhouses in the southeastern French town of Puget-Théniers, and in Pézenas, in the south of France, the grisly new videos show animals regaining consciousness while being killed. Livestock are seen having their throats slit, or bleeding out as they hang from one hoof or lie on the slaughterhouse floor.

Following the videos’ release, L214 announced they were taking legal action against the two slaughterhouses, which halted operations on June 29. They also launched a petition calling on schools and other public institutions to offer a vegetarian or vegan alternative in cafeterias.

The same day, leaders of a number of animal rights groups appeared before a special investigative parliamentary committee – formed by Agriculture Minister Stéphane Le Foll in March in response to L214’s earlier videos – to testify about systematic abuses in the fresh meat industry.

They demanded an increase in resources allocated to slaughterhouses, tighter monitoring and controls, as well as industry-wide standards on sedating livestock before slaughter, among other measures.

There are a total of 263 slaughterhouses in France, which produce an average of 3.45 million tonnes of meat per year, according to the agriculture ministry.

“We must stress the problem with monitoring [slaughterhouse operations], it’s the most important,” said Alain Pittion, a veterinarian and president of the National Confederation of Animal Protection Organisations (Confédération nationale des sociétés protectrices des animaux).

David Chauvet, vice president of the group Animal Rights (Droits des animaux) called for slaughterhouses to be put under 24-hour video surveillance, and for animal rights advocates to be given access to the footage in the event that the government is unable to monitor them.

The country’s main agriculture union, FNSEA, also called for greater scrutiny of slaughterhouses on Thursday, telling the parliamentary committee that livestock farmers were “very attached to the humane treatment of animals – we raise them with care and professionalism”.

While FNSEA and the Farmers Confederation union (Confédération paysannes) backed using video surveillance of slaughterhouses as a training tool for workers, more conservative unions staunchly opposed the idea.

‘The videos are obsolete’

Authorities in the regional department of Hérault, where Pézenas is located, responded to L214's videos by arguing that the footage was out of date.

“The majority of the videos are obsolete: the tools seen [in them] are no longer in use or have been changed, practices have been improved, and some workers haven’t handled livestock in months,” they said.

Authorities in Hérault added they had carried out a number of inspections since the start of the year, and “imposed corrective measures that were swiftly put into place by slaughterhouse management”.

Meanwhile, Elie Aboud, a parliamentary representative for Hérault and a member of the special investigative committee, told AFP he was “surprised” by the footage, having not noticed anything amiss during an unannounced visit to the slaughterhouse in Pézenas on May 17.

An April 23 audit of conditions at the slaughterhouse in Puget-Théniers, however, found that the facility was in violation of regulations, and it was given two months to address the issues.

“There can be small dysfunctionalities, but no barbaric acts, or violence or cruelty towards the animals,” the slaughterhouse’s director, Emmanuel Vizza, told France Bleu radio on Thursday.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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