Animal Aid claims its covert filming at Sturminster Newton uncovered a failure to provide a head restraint in the stunning box, a requirement by law, cows being left for up to 65 minutes in the stun box in breach of the law and a stun operator hitting two cows with a squeegee mop after stunning.
The filming is the latest in a series of exposés by the vegetarian campaigners alleging breaches at UK abattoirs. Head of campaigns, Kate Fowler, said: "Animal Aid has once again identified serious breaches of the law at a UK slaughterhouse. Such failings have caused wholly unnecessary additional suffering to animals and those responsible should be held to account.
"In light of the body of evidence that Animal Aid has obtained from six abattoirs, the government and industry can no longer pretend that UK slaughterhouses have high welfare standards and adhere to the law."
A spokesman for the FSA's Operations Group, formerly known as the Meat Hygiene Service, said: "The FSA has referred the whole footage for investigation of breaches of the WASK regulations. With regard to the lack of a head restraint, the matter had been raised by our Official Veterinarian with the abattoir operator prior to receipt of Animal Aid’s footage.
"However, whilst no head restraint was fitted, there was evidence on the footage of the slaughterman taking his time and ensuring correct aim. With regard to animals being left an undue amount of time in the stunning box, it is correct that animals should be stunned without delay and this is subject to investigation with a view to prosecution.However, we observed that none of the animals featured in the footage appeared to be unduly distressed."