Every day, between the intestines and the stomachs, I found fetuses of calves that could have been born a few minutes before. This sight has never ceased to horrify me and I still wonder at what point in our lives we decided that it was morally acceptable to artificially inseminate cows, send them full to the slaughterhouse and draw blood. of their fetuses. Beyond these atrocities done to animals, I have also witnessed the powerlessness, incompetence and passivity of the veterinary services of the slaughterhouse and here again, a question: who controls the veterinary services? "
Without experience or training, Thomas Saïdi, an L214 investigator, was hired by the official veterinary services of a slaughterhouse of the Bigard group (Charal and Socopa brands) in Cuiseaux in Saône-et-Loire.
He has witnessed major dysfunctions within state services and numerous unsanctioned offenses, resulting in terrible suffering to the animals.
L214 today unveils a new survey * carried out at the Cuiseaux (71) slaughterhouse of the Bigard group (Bigard, Socopa, Charal brands) , leader in beef and veal in France and in Europe.
Following reports and without further possibility of verification, Thomas Saïdi, an investigator from L214, applied for a post of health worker within the official veterinary services of the slaughterhouse. These are the services that are responsible for monitoring compliance with health and animal protection rules, services under the Ministry of Agriculture. He was hired with no experience or qualifications. Thomas filmed part of the chain, from the arrival of the animals in the cattle herd to their killing and the first cuts.
He has witnessed serious shortcomings in veterinary services, numerous regulatory violations resulting in acute and yet preventable suffering to the animals.
He also filmed the aspiration of blood on fetuses of dead calves, asphyxiated in the womb of their mother slaughtered a few minutes earlier, including on calves ready to be born, thus proving the illegal transport of term cows of their gestation.
Thomas decided to testify with his face uncovered.
HYGIENE CONTROL AND HEALTH CONTROL WITHOUT TRAINING
His job consisted of carrying out inspections relating to the health and protection of live animals, the health control of carcasses and offal and compliance with hygiene rules. A week after being hired, and without having received any training, at most a few contradictory instructions from his colleagues on the job, he was already alone in controlling the ritual slaughter. Three weeks after taking up his post, he independently controlled the health status of carcasses and offal on the line. And after only two months on the job, he found himself in a position to train a newcomer.
BLOODED VETERINARY SERVICES
Thomas was able to observe the shortcomings of the veterinary services, the lack of personnel for veterinary inspection and sporadic checks. Extract from an exchange with the official slaughterhouse veterinarian:
"Given the work we have, given the conditions in which we work, it's complicated I remember that at the time we were 24. Then Sarkozy arrived, we became 21, then the following year 20 , 18, and today they say that it is 15 that we have to be. I'm saying that's not enough, but hey ... "
"There are not enough staff, it's true that if we have to follow the rules, we have to look at all the animals at the time of slaughter, but that's not what we do in reality. "
At the Cuiseaux slaughterhouse, 500 cattle are killed every day. Ritual slaughter, which concerns around 150 cattle, is only checked for 5 to 10 cattle per day. Standard slaughter (with stunning) is simply not controlled by the inspection services. In other words, only 1 to 2% of slaughterings are checked. However, the regulations require that “the operations of immobilization, stunning, slaughter and killing of animals placed under the continuous surveillance of agents of the inspection service” ( decree of 12 December 1997 ).
In addition, many times, regulatory violations (see below) occur before the eyes of veterinary officials without triggering any reaction.
SERIOUS OFFENSES AND SUFFERING ANIMALS
The investigator witnessed serious regulatory violations and preventable animal suffering. Some examples :
- As part of the ritual slaughter, cattle still conscious after having been slaughtered are suspended by a leg from the slaughter chain1 without any emergency control or stunning sparing the animals extreme suffering.
- Despite the presence of an obstruction curtain, the animals still alive see their congeners hanging from the chain in the process of emptying their blood2.
- In the slaughterhouse yard, an injured cow, badly stunned and still conscious, is loaded with a forklift3.
- In the cow house (waiting area after unloading), cows may remain locked in pens barely larger than their body for 48 hours without eating4.
- Cattle seriously injured, for example with a broken leg, may wait 10 hours before being slaughtered for lack of employees in the sanitary slaughterhouse5.
- Stings that produce electric shocks are used on animals to make them move faster.
- Cattle are hit with sticks in the eyes to force them back7.
BLOOD COLLECTION FROM FETUS CALVES
Thomas also filmed fetuses of calves of all ages arriving daily on the slaughter line (around fifty a day), and in particular calves ready to be born. These fetuses should never have arrived on the slaughterhouse line since the regulations prohibit the transport of cows beyond the eighth month of gestation8.
Fetuses die from suffocation in the womb of their slaughtered mother.
As can be seen in the images, every day an employee draws all the blood from these fetuses by cardiac puncture. The serum is then extracted from the blood and marketed by SeraFrance (see below).
COMPLAINT AND RECOURSE IN RESPONSIBILITY
L214 files a complaint for serious abuse with the prosecutor of the Chalon-sur-Saône judicial court and files a liability action against the State for failure to fulfill its mission of monitoring the application of the regulations.
PROHIBITION OF THE SLAUGHTER OF GESTANT COWS AND COMPLIANCE WITH REGULATIONS
L214 is launching a petition asking the government to ban the killing of pregnant cows, at least during the last third of their gestation period.
L214 also asks:
- that the operations of immobilization, stunning, slaughter and killing of animals are really placed under the continuous supervision of the agents of the inspection service, as required by the regulations
- that the infringements noted be penalized and that the slaughterhouses be forced to put an end to them without delay.
In addition, there is an urgent need to ban the slaughter of cattle without stunning, which causes extreme suffering for the animals, as this survey shows once again. There is a broad scientific consensus that this method of slaughter should be banned.
For Thomas Saïdi, investigator: " The images I shot are hard but they are necessary at a time when it is forbidden to reveal what takes place inside the slaughterhouses without any logic of confidentiality or competition. or safety is not at stake. For four months, I sliced hundreds of still hot hearts every day, in such a mechanical way, so repeatedly, that I sometimes came to no longer make the connection with the animal.
However, all it took was a cry, a cry so powerful that it crossed my body, to remind me that the organs I had in front of me had constituted a few minutes before a being who only asked to live. Today, I hope that these cries will be heard by all and that consumers too can make this link and understand that animals are not resources that we can exploit at will and over which we have all the rights. "
For Sébastien Arsac, spokesperson for L214: “ The Bigard group is doing everything to make people forget the animals behind the meat. When we see the images from the inside, we understand why! But consumers who buy the group's products (the Charal, Bigard or Socopa brands) nevertheless have the right to know. By disseminating these images, we are only showing the reality of violence against animals in slaughterhouses.
Behind the meat, it is only a succession of horrors, from violence against animals through ritual slaughter to the puncture of the blood of fetuses from pregnant cows that have just been slaughtered. As for the veterinary services, supposed to enforce regulations to limit animal suffering, they are clearly failing. A few months before the presidential elections, it's time to open our eyes to the savagery of our society with regard to animals and to rethink the relationships we want to maintain with them. "
In many cities across France, L214 militant groups are mobilizing to relay this survey to passers-by. More information here .
* Angers, Antibes, Colmar, Clermont-Ferrand, Caen, Poitiers, Paris, Amiens, Rouen, Nice, Orléans, Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, Saint-Raphaël, Montpellier, Biarritz, Quimper, Lyon, Metz, Châteauroux, Rennes.
* Images were shot between February and May 2021.
DEFICIENCIES IN VETERINARY SERVICES IN FRANCE
The veterinary services (DDPP) are decentralized state services. They depend on the prefectures and the Ministry of Agriculture. Their mission is to ensure compliance with the rules of hygiene and food safety as well as animal protection rules.
As part of the staff reduction implemented with the general reform of public policies (2007), the number of veterinary inspectors has decreased significantly (-20%). Today, the veterinary services bring together 855 veterinary public health inspectors and 2,700 veterinary technicians . They also call on around 700 contract veterinarians (non-civil servants). Which is largely insufficient.
In 2016, an inspection of all butcher's slaughterhouses in France was ordered by Stéphane Le Foll, then Minister of Agriculture. The results of this audit showed that 80% of the slaughter lines had non-conformities .
During the hearings carried out within the framework of the commission of inquiry on the conditions of slaughter of slaughter animals in French slaughterhouses, Mr. Laurent Lasne, president of the national union of veterinary public health inspectors (SNISPV), declared : “ The workforce reductions have had an impact on other categories of personnel performing less codified tasks, such as supervising the sorting of by-products, inspecting the hygiene of cutting plants downstream from the slaughterhouse, but also inspections at stunning and bleeding stations. It is therefore possible that the reduction of the workforce by 20% resulted in a reduction in the frequency of animal protection checks. "
In its final report, the committee recommended strengthening the sanitary inspection by significantly increasing the number of slaughterhouses, strengthening the training of veterinary service agents and the possibilities of sanctions when the situation requires it.
The National Slaughterhouse Ethics Committee, bringing together members of the National Food Council as well as professionals from the sector, animal protection associations, veterinarians, representatives of religions and researchers, recommends optimizing the controls of State veterinary services to ensure permanent control and to increase the number of veterinarians and official auxiliaries .
As for the Court of Auditors, it already underlined in a report of 2014 the insufficiency of the controls of the Ministry of Agriculture : “ All in all, the absence of control at a significant level and the absence of sufficient sanctions highlight serious abnormalities. "
The investigation unveiled today only confirms an observation made for several years, without the recommendations, however unanimous on the strengthening of control staff, being followed up.
BIGARD: THE REIGN OF OPACITY
The Bigard group, owner of the Charal and Socopa brands, slaughters 1.3 million cattle, 400,000 calves, 5 million pigs and 400,000 lambs each year, which represents 43% of French meat production and 70% of steaks. minced meat sold in France.
As with the publication of its accounts , the Bigard group is opposed to any transparency concerning the killing of animals. During the commission of inquiry into the conditions of slaughter of animals for slaughter in French slaughterhouses , Jean-Paul Bigard declared: “The act of death is totally locked. we have no interest in staging and opening the start of a slaughter line. you cannot show animals to tell consumers that they are going to eat good meat. Bigard, Charal and Socopa invest considerable sums in communication. With the “Chopped from our regions”, we see furtively, for a second, a herd of Norman cows, but immediately afterwards we talk about meat and especially not about what is happening in the slaughterhouse. "
Infiltrating one of the group's slaughterhouses was the only way to get an idea of the slaughter and control conditions within the Bigard group's establishments.
USE OF FETAL CALF SERUM AND ITS ALTERNATIVES
According to an EFSA document9, 16% of dairy cows and 11% of suckler cows are slaughtered while pregnant. On average, 3% of dairy cows are said to be slaughtered in the last third of their gestation period in the EU.
There are many reasons for the presence of these pregnant cows. Still according to this same document, if there can be a part of good faith on the part of the breeder not realizing that the cow he sends to the slaughterhouse is carrying a calf, the strong presence of pregnant cows in the slaughterhouses would respond more to economic problems of profitability (weight gain, low market value of male calves), to health reasons (the female being sick or having an infection, mastitis in particular), or even to the collection of fetal bovine serum.
Since May 18, 2017 , Germany has banned the slaughter of pregnant cows in the last third of their gestation, due to the probable ability of fetuses, at an advanced stage of their formation, to feel pain. Calves ready to be born die of suffocation in their mothers' wombs or when the uterus is opened on the chain of custody. In France, only the transport of pregnant cows in the last month of gestation is prohibited8. However, at the Bigard slaughterhouse in Cuiseaux, the presence of calves ready to be born is obvious and recurring.
In this slaughterhouse, the blood of fetuses is punctured to extract serum. Once the sample is taken, the fetuses are thrown in the trash. Fetal calf serum (FCS) or fetal bovine serum is used in the laboratory for the culture of cells and tissues in vitro.
Beyond ethical questions, the use of SVF poses long-known scientific problems: variable composition, complicated reproducibility and potential health risks. Indeed, FCS can be contaminated with microorganisms present on the fetus but also by viruses, bacteria, mycoplasmas, etc. as well as by prions.
To date, alternatives to its use are being developed, such as human platelet lysate, which can be produced from a simple blood donation, or placental blood plasma . There are already marketed alternatives to SVF, such as KOSR (Knock-Out Serum Replacement) sold by ThermoFisher, one of the world's leading suppliers of components and materials for research. Alternatives without animal products are also developing within the framework of research on cultured meat.
What the law provides:
1. Order of 12 December 1997 relating to the procedures for immobilizing, stunning and killing animals and to the conditions of animal protection in slaughterhouses. Article 2bis:
"In the case of ritual slaughter, the immobilization of animals of the bovine, ovine and caprine species must be ensured by means of a mechanical process applied prior to slaughter and maintained until the end of the bleeding in accordance with provisions of appendix II bis of this decree. "
2. This provision derives from article R214-67 of the Rural Code: “The premises, installations and equipment of slaughterhouses must be designed, constructed, maintained and used in such a way as to spare the animals any avoidable excitement, pain or suffering. "
3. Order of 12 December 1997 relating to the procedures for immobilizing, stunning and killing animals and to the conditions of animal protection in slaughterhouses. Chapter II. Annex I:
"5. (c) Animals unable to move must not be dragged to the place of slaughter but be slaughtered where they are lying or, where possible and this does not cause unnecessary suffering, transported to the place of slaughter. a cart or a rolling plate to the emergency slaughter room. "
4. Order of 12 December 1997 relating to the procedures for immobilizing, stunning and killing animals and to the conditions of animal protection in slaughterhouses. Chapter II. Annex I:
"6. b) Animals which, on arrival, are not transported directly to the place of slaughter must have potable water supplied at all times by means of appropriate equipment. Animals which have not been slaughtered within 12 hours of arrival should be fed and subsequently moderately fed at appropriate intervals. "
5. Order of 12 December 1997 relating to the procedures for immobilizing, stunning and killing animals and to the conditions of animal protection in slaughterhouses. Chapter II. Annex I:
"5. (b) animals which have undergone suffering or pain during transport or on arrival at the slaughterhouse and unweaned animals must be slaughtered immediately." If immediate slaughter is not possible, they must be separated and slaughtered as soon as possible and at least within two hours. "
6. Order of 12 December 1997 relating to the procedures for immobilizing, stunning and killing animals and to the conditions of animal protection in slaughterhouses. Chapter II. Annex I:
"4. (a) Devices subjecting animals to electric shocks may only be used for adult cattle and pigs which refuse to move, provided that the shocks do not last more than two seconds, that they are properly spaced and the animals have room to move forward. "
7. Order of 12 December 1997 relating to the procedures for immobilizing, stunning and killing animals and to the conditions of animal protection in slaughterhouses. Chapter II. Annex I:
“4. b) It is forbidden to strike or exert pressure in particularly sensitive areas. "
8. Regulation (EC) n ° 1/2005 relating to the protection of animals during transport. Annex I, Chapter I:
“Animals that are injured or show physiological weaknesses or a pathological condition are not considered fit to be transported; this is the case in particular if:
these are pregnant females who are at least 90% of the expected gestation period or females who have given birth in the previous week. "
9. Health, E. et al. (2017). “Animal welfare aspects in respect of the slaughter or killing of pregnant livestock animals (cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, horses)” , EFSA Journal , 15 (5), e04782 & EFSA, Perspectives de bien-être animal dans slaughter of pregnant animals.