Cattle slaughterhouse closed after video of abuse

Summary

The Verbist beef processing plant in West Flanders has been shut down after a shocking video is released detailing animal abuse

Harsh words from animal welfare minister

Flemish minister for animal welfare Ben Weyts ordered the Verbist slaughterhouse in Izegem, West Flanders, to close yesterday after seeing a video detailing serious abuse of cattle. The video was released by Animal Rights, which was also responsible for the footage that shut down the Debra-Group slaughterhouse in Tielt last March.

According to a ministry spokesperson, the problems at Verbist include a lack of legally required infrastructure as well as a lack of skills on the part of workers. The footage shows animals being repeatedly shocked with a cattle-prod, jabbed with a long pole, stunned ineffectively and having their throats cut in full view of living animals, which is against regulations as it causes panic.

Following the release of the video yesterday, supermarket chain Delhaize immediately suspended its contract with the facility. “The road to animal welfare is a damned long one,” Weyts said in an emotional statement to VRT. “But anyone who thinks we don’t mean what we say will find out the hard way.”

He promised more resources to allow an increase in the number of inspections and is reportedly considering having his ministry take over inspections of slaughterhouses in the region.

The inspection services of federal food safety agency Favv is “inadequate,” according to Weyts. Favv concentrates too much on food safety and not enough on animal welfare, he said.

The Izegem closure follows an almost identical incident earlier this year at another slaughterhouse in nearby Tielt, when undercover video revealed similar maltreatment of pigs, leading to the facility’s licence being withdrawn until protective measures were put in place. That facility, Debra-Group, is  now under constant video surveillance. It is currently involved in a month-long publicity campaign, including public tours.

“Following Tielt, I signed a covenant with the sector that raised the bar for animal welfare standards,” Weyts said. “However, I see that inspections have not followed through with that.”
Photo: A still from the undercover footage showing abuse of cattle in Izegem

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