Vegetarian campaigning group Animal Aid claim investigators at the plant filmed slaughtermen stubbing out cigarettes on pigs faces, animals being punched and goads being used on animals faces, allegations disputed by Cheale Meats owners Elmkirk Ltd.
Extracts of the footage sent to the FSA led to the licence of one of the slaughtermen identified in the footage being revoked, while another slaughterman featured in the footage was in possession of a provisional licence, now expired and the FSA said it would not be renewed.
Animal Aid are now using the footage to attack government officials for failing to prosecute plants it claims to have exposed as part of a two and a half year campaign against the meat industry.
Kate Fowler, head of campaigns at Animal Aid said: “Since we first began investigating English slaughterhouses, we have been pressing everyone involved – regulators, industry bodies and the government – to act decisively to end the cruelty. At first, they appeared contrite and promised action but now their words ring hollow.
“If Defra won’t prosecute these flagrant breaches of the law; if the vets can’t or won’t act to stop the cruelties; and if the slaughterhouse owners look the other way, who is there to stop animals from being abused at the most vulnerable time of their lives? It seems that all involved are content to keep quiet and to allow these cruelties to continue. So much for the UK having the best welfare standards in the world!”
A spokesman for the FSA said: “Defra decided in July 2010 as a matter of policy that it would not be appropriate for the Department to rely on evidence provided by a third party that it could not obtain under its own statutory powers.
“Considering the only evidence available was the footage submitted by Animal Aid, the FSA had to take into account Defra’s policy on this type of evidence, and therefore decided not to further investigate or submit a file to Defra to consider a prosecution.”
Jamie Foster, a partner with Clarke Willmott, which is representing Elmkirk, said: "Given the source of this material Elmkirk would not accept that all or any of the activities shown on this video relate to their premises.
"Elmkirk Ltd have had CCTV installed for a decade. I am therefore surprised that Animal Aid felt it necessary to target our client’s premises as we understood that the stated purpose of their activities was to encourage abattoirs in this country to install CCTV.
“Clearly any footage which relates to our clients premises has been obtained unlawfully. I have been involved in cases previously where such evidence has been ruled to be inadmissible or the prosecution has declined to rely on evidence which has been obtained by burglary or other unlawful means.
“A complaint has been made to Essex Police by our clients in relation to any unlawful entry into our client’s premises by an employee of Animal Aid. The outcome of that complaint is awaited.”
A Defra spokesperson added: “Animal cruelty is unacceptable, and we vigorously pursue action against accusations of cruelty wherever we can.
“However, where video evidence has been obtained unlawfully through trespass, there is very little prospect of securing a conviction.
“As the RSPCA has also found in previous cases, trials which are thrown out of court do absolutely nothing to help reduce the suffering of animals.”