Animals boiled alive in Dutch slaughterhouses

Meat processing
Meat processing

Dutch slaughterhouses do not always care about animal welfare. Pigs drowning in piping hot water and calves being skinned alive are among the cruelties inspectors found, RTL Nieuws reports based on documents requested from the Dutch food and consumer product safety authority NVWA.

The broadcaster requested these documents following shocking undercover videos that came out of a Belgian slaughterhouse in Tielt last year. After these videos came out, former State Secretary Martijn van Dam said that there are shortcomings, "but we have no indications that something like what happened in Belgium would also happen in the Netherlands." The NVWA documents show that this is not the case.

In over two years, the NVWA imposed 48 fines on 19 Dutch slaughterhouses for abuses in the delivery and slaughtering of animals. One slaughterhouse received 11 fines. The fines ranged between 1,500 and 5 thousand euros. The names of the companies involved were not released.

Things often go wrong when animals are killed. According to the rules, animals must be anesthetized and then their carotid arteries must be cut. The inspectors found 16 cases where this did not happen correctly, resulting in the animals still being alive when the slaughter process continued. 

One inspector writes about living pigs violently drowning in 60 degrees hot water. "One pig started to struggle and move with the whole body. The splashing became much more intense with large amounts of water coming over the edge." The pig was pushed under water by an iron construction, where the animal drowned. The inspector writes that the pig was conscious when it went into the water and suffered greatly as a result. 

Another inspector witnessed something similar happening at another slaughterhouse. Four pigs went into the hot water tank in succession. They tried to stay above water, kicking their legs.

The NVWA reports also include dozens of other violations, like crippled animals in pain while walking and animals being skinned alive. A calf was cut into while it was still moving. An inspector writes: "Despite the calf's movements he [the slaughterer] stripped the calf of its head skin, and wanted to continue cutting off the front claws." The inspector put a stop to it. In another slaughterhouse, inspectors saw two sheep being skinned alive.

Animal Rights is horrified by the NVWA reports. "Those pigs were actually boiled alive", director Rober Molenaar said to RTL. "When the Belgian images came out I was often asked: does this happen in the Netherlands? I suspected so then, but here it is now in black and white." The organization describes animals being skinned alive as a  "horror setting."

In a reaction the NVWA told RTL Nieuws that the violations for which the slaughterhouses were fined over the past years were not sufficient to close the slaughterhouse. "We intervene with a means that is proportionate to the severity and frequency of the violation." Usually a warning is given first and then fines follow. If that does not work, the company could be closed.