Slaughterhouse on trial after animal cruelty caught on film

Slaughterhouse on trial after animal cruelty caught on film
A slaughterhouse in Flanders is on trial for several instances of animal abuse and food-safety violations. Credit: © Belga

A trial pitting an animal rights group against a slaughterhouse and its owner accused of several instances of animal abuse and food safety violations kicked off in a criminal court in West Flanders at the start of the week.

Launched in 2017, the criminal trial was initiated by Animal Rights Association, who that year released footage showing how employees of the Verbist slaughterhouse abused cattle.

The association decided to bring both the abattoir and its owner to court after the footage provided sufficient evidence to back up recurring reports of animal abuse, to which the association also added a series of food-safety offences flagged by the Federal Agency for Food Chain Safety (AFSCA).

"We do not want the mistreatment of animals to go unpunished," the organisation said as the introductory hearing was held on Monday.

While abattoirs usually receive fines for such violations, an attorney in the case, Anthony Godfroid, said the recurring nature of the problem prompted the association to take legal action against the slaughterhouse, located in the Flemish town of Izegem.

"Thanks to the footage released by Animal Rights, [older instances of abuse] have been taken into account," Godfroid said, qualifying the case against the abattoir as "quite bulky."

Captured by hidden cameras, the footage released by the association shows the ill-treatment to which animals in the abattoir were being subjected.

The videos showed animals being beaten and tasered back into their enclosures. They also showed cattle being hung and slaughtered in front of live animals. They were routinely not fully anaesthetised before being killed.

"We hope the punishment is severe," Animal Rights spokesman Els Van Campenhout said. "It is only when heavy penalties are imposed that this kind of animal suffering will end."

During the introductory hearing, the dates in which each of the parties will respond to the accusations were set. The case is set to to be further review on March of next year.

The Brussels Times

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