Letters: Slaughterhouses will always be brutal

These letters appear in the 5th January issue of The Independent

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Once again, covert filming in a slaughterhouse reveals sickening abuse of animals by workers. Slaughterhouses are brutal places in which to work. Slaughtermen are pressured to kill animals as quickly as possible in order to maintain or to increase “productivity”.

No human being could do such a job without a level of desensitivity that destroys any sympathy for another creature, which then easily descends into wanton cruelty.

Every time undercover filming of slaughterhouses takes place, similar examples come to light. Evidence of serious malpractice does not come easily. Covert filming can be dangerous. It is only worthwhile if more people are encouraged to change their diet, for humane as well as health reasons.

M F Pearson

Bromsgrove, Worcestershire


Nearly 30 years ago, while training to be a veterinary surgeon, we were required to put in two weeks’ “seeing practice” at an abattoir. It was one of the most distressing experiences of my veterinary life. 

We may have locked the killing behind closed doors, but the fact remains that if we ask people to slaughter anything all day, every day, they are going to experience profound psychological, emotional and, if you believe in such things, spiritual damage. The only men (and they were exclusively men) who survive what is essentially a perpetual bloodbath are those who either manage to dissociate themselves completely from their work, or who actively enjoy it.

What I realised then was that if I chose to eat meat, unless the animals are killed at a small, local abattoir, it is immensely likely that the beasts of our feeding lived their last hours in terror and died in extreme distress. The situation may have changed radically in the past 30 years, but it’s hard to imagine how.

Manda Scott

Clungunford, Shropshire


The Rev Tony Birbeck is  no doubt right (letter,  4 February) that politicians shy away from banning religious ritual slaughter of animals because they fear upsetting prospective voters (although they seem incapable of seeing how they upset many voters by not banning it). But there can be no legitimate reason why it should not be made compulsory for all slaughterhouses to have functioning CCTV cameras in place in every part of these hellholes.

It should also be compulsory for frequent unannounced checks to be made, not by tame government vets who, it would seem, turn a blind eye to suffering, but by effective, independent animal welfare experts.  Penalties for failing what should be the highest possible standards should be severe and immediate.

It is bad enough that so many farm animals live lives of misery; for them to be subjected to terror and pain at the last is a shocking indictment of the callous human species.

Penny Little

Great Haseley, Oxfordshire


Concerns that religious hatred could be fuelled by the recent exposure of the mistreatment of animals at a halal abattoir are justified. The investigation conducted by the charity Animal Aid did find “gratuitous violence  and contempt”.

However, one needs to be able to make the distinction between what is considered halal practice and that which is clearly a breach of animal welfare legislation, and simply inhumane.

While there has been a small increase in halal abattoirs no longer adopting pre-stunning methods, the majority of halal meat products that are available in the UK are pre-stunned. Under Islamic rules animals can be stunned providing the animal is still alive when the throat is slit and the blood is able to be drained. The cruel mistreatment revealed at this abattoir including the kicking, hacking and hurling of animals is not an Islamic practice but the poor conduct of its employees.

Animal Aid’s suggestion of the installation of  CCTV in all abattoirs should be made mandatory to monitor and ensure the  fair treatment of animals.

Nadia Qadri

London SE6


Blame Labour for rout in Scotland

Your editorial of 2 February exhorts the Scots to wake up and smell the coffee. Scots are already fully aware of the possible outcome of the next UK general election. Many north of the border, who are not natural SNP supporters, will nevertheless vote for that party, simply because they feel there is little alternative.

The recent election of Jim Murphy as leader of the Scottish Labour Party has pushed many more into the nationalist camp. If the SNP does well there is every possibility that it will be the third largest party in the UK and may well work with the Labour Party to form an administration. Many Scots would regard this as a good thing, since SNP policy is somewhat to the left of Labour. Crucially for Scots, the SNP is committed not to work with the Conservatives.

If anyone needs to smell the coffee, it’s the Labour Party, which seems to have gone out of its way to alienate many of its Scottish supporters. If there is a rout in Scotland it will have been Labour that brought it about. It may already be too late to change the outcome.

A more nuanced approach by Labour to the referendum, instead of standing hand-in-hand with the current government, would certainly have helped.

Bernie Precious

Crail, Fife


Geriatric isles of Greece?

While it is understandable that many better-heeled parts of Europe are reluctant to believe in promises however solemn and binding by the Greek government to repay its debt, there are some possible left-field alternatives.

Much of Europe has an ageing population and the cost of servicing the care of many elderly and often isolated people in Northern Europe is a real concern to many governments, who try to control costs by bringing in low-wage immigrants to look after them.

It would make more sense for the Greeks to lease or mortgage some of their hundreds of islands and allow Northern European countries to establish and run care homes on suitable islands and effectively turn them into a warmer part of the northern country.

Over time this would transfer revenue and jobs to Greece and reduce care costs in Northern Europe. The leases would be written in such a way that if the Greek debts were not, in the end, repaid, then the island or islands would, as with a classical mortgage, ultimately belong to the country concerned.

The idea of one country leasing or buying part of another country is not new; the most famous examples being the American purchase of Louisiana from the French and of Alaska from the Russians.

A J Caston

Tervuren,  Belgium


Why is the media so obsessed with the fact that Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek Finance Minister, does not wear a tie?

The implication is that only men with a strip of nondescript cloth hanging from their necks can be competent and trustworthy. But then, look who does wear ties. The media is miles behind the game as usual. A well-tailored shirt with a button-down collar, open at the neck, is a quietly understated alternative, not trapped in the 1970s.

Robert Benton



Everybody loves the environment

While I accept that politics is a dirty business, I was somewhat taken aback to read Andrew Grice’s Inside Westminster column (31 January) where he states that certain “soft Cons” (Conservatives who aren’t fully red in tooth and claw) are “pro-environment”.

Is there anyone living on this planet who is actively anti-environment? I think we should be told so they can be sent into space to spare the rest of us.

Gary Chapman

London N3


Why we have church schools

Ian Quayle makes some good points about secularisation (letter,  30 January), and with some of them I, as a Christian, would agree. However,  I would take him up on  two points.

First, Britain does not have an established church: England has one; and Scotland has a different one. Wales and Northern Ireland do not have one.

Second, the reason why the Church has a certain amount of control over some state-funded schools is that the Church founded and financed these schools many years before the state was interested in universal education. In the case of many rural schools, they are very often still using the same buildings.

John Williams

West Wittering, West Sussex


A window on the past

I still use Windows XP for writing letters and articles with Word and have been agreeably surprised that today my system has been updated, I think, for the fourth time since Microsoft announced they were stopping further updates.

Well done from an oldie who finds it hard to say goodbye completely to that great operating system.

Stuart Ringrose

Carshalton,  Surrey