An east Flemish slaughterhouse has been shut down for multiple serious violations of animal welfare over the last year.
Assigned veterinarians at the Ryckaert slaughterhouse in Eeklo reported that animals were beaten badly, electrical prods were used excessively and serious mistakes were made during the slaughter itself.
Flemish Minister of Animal Affairs Ben Weyts said the slaughterhouse was given several opportunities to address the problems, but failed to do so.
“Those who do not want to hear, must feel,” Weyts said in announcing the closure.
“The operation has to be stopped immediately and can only restart when it has been structurally changed. Even in a slaughterhouse, animals should still be treated decently.”
Stricter punishments and bigger fines for animal abuse
Animal Welfare has been developed into a full-fledged competence at the Flemish level, ever since the regionalisation in 2014.
Weyts has overseen the implementation of stricter punishments and bigger fines for animal abusers.
The Animal Welfare Service was also more than doubled in size, with an extra team of 50 veterinarians put in place specifically to supervise the treatment of animals in slaughterhouses.
Agreements were also reached with the slaughterhouse sector, including on the use of extensive camera surveillance.
Violation of European standards
Weyts based his decision to shut down the Ryckaert slaughterhouse on the European Control and Death Regulations.
There were several reports made against the slaughterhouse in just over a year, and in the same period, the Inspectorate found serious violations on four occasions.
An official report was drawn up in December 2020, when it was discovered that hot water was poured over pigs before they were stunned. Another was made in March 2021, when it was discovered that animals were being beaten severely with a paddle and that electrical prods were being used excessively.
Some employees lacked required certificates, and more reports of brutality against the animals were made in December 2021.
“A new official report earlier this week – with more descriptions of violence against animals, inadequate welfare conditions and errors during the slaughter procedure – was the last straw,” Weyts’ office said.