Slaughterhouse fined for animal cruelty in animal rights first

Happier days for pigs Photo: S Boztas

A slaughterhouse has been fined €15,000 for mistreating animals, in a case that animal rights activists claim is a first.

The Dutch public prosecutor has announced that Gosschalk slaughterhouse in Epe has been fined and employees face criminal prosecution, after animal activists released undercover video of pigs and cows being beaten with paddles, pulled by the tail and given unnecessary electric shocks on the way to slaughter.

Varkens in Nood, which filmed the images in 2020 and campaigned for obligatory cameras in all slaughterhouses, believes it is a first for a slaughterhouse to be sanctioned for animal mistreatment.

Frederieke Schouten, director, said that although it was not a huge fine compared with the number of animals mistreated, it sent an important signal. “For a big company, it’s not a lot of money but on the other hand, we think it is an extraordinary step,” she told Dutch News.

“It doesn’t happen often that a slaughterhouse itself, the business, is fined at all for mistreating animals. It is normally for hygiene matters, but animal welfare is not often a reason for punishment via criminal law. We think it is a good thing and very significant.”

When the images from three weeks of undercover filming came to light in 2021, to huge media and political attention, the NVWA Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority closed the slaughterhouse for eight weeks.

Large clients such as McDonald’s and Boni cancelled contracts, reports NOS, the family firm went bust and has now been taken over by Fuite, a feed company from Genemuiden.

The OM public prosecutor announced this week in a press release that the head of the company had already been punished by stepping back and selling the family business. “The investigation did not show that the director (the de facto manager) of the slaughterhouse gave active instructions for the banned behaviour, but would rather have played a passive role,” it said. “The public prosecution believes the director has already been severely punished for his (negligent) actions.”

He does not face personal responsibility, however the OM will prosecute those employees accused of the criminal animal mistreatment. It is expected to ask for community service.

Dutch News has asked FamilyBeef, the new company which after the takeover slaughters and processes only beef, for a reaction.

Dutch farming

The New Social Contract, one of the parties in discussions about forming the next government, has proposed closing intensive pig and chicken farms and reducing the numbers of labour migrants, who are often employed in slaughterhouses.

Almost a quarter of Dutch pig farmers have reportedly signed up for a voluntary buy-out scheme, part of efforts to reduce pollution from more than 100 million farmed animals in the country.

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