Petrified sheep being thrown through the air against metal barriers, cows with slit throats struggling while hanging by their legs in obvious distress, and pigs convulsing violently after electric shocks.
These were the scenes published on Tuesday by animal rights group L214, all of which were filmed at a supposedly “animal friendly” abattoir in Vigan, in the Gard département of southern France.
The abattoir is certified as organic (certifié bio in French) – meaning the standards of treatment towards the animals is supposedly higher. They are often referred to as “humane slaughterhouses”.
However Johanne Mielcarek from L214 told The Local that in reality that doesn't mean that the animals are treated any better.
“It's absolutely scandalous, and extremely shocking,” she said.
Vets contacted by the group agreed that the video showed “severe abuse” of the animals.
Scenes show employees at the abattoir punching and hitting sheep, while one laughs at the top of his voice as he administers a small electric shock to a sheep, just to see its reaction.
“The violence and sadism is frequent,” reads the video's narrator.
Other clips show animals hanging by one leg struggling in distress, after they were supposed to have been humanely put down.
The video is embedded below and contains extremely graphic images. Viewer discretion is advised.
L214's Mielcarek says that it's “unsurprising” that the “organic” abattoir isn't humane in its treatment of animals, adding that it all comes down to vague wording by authorities.
“When you look at the European regulations, there isn't much information about the actual act of slaughter and how it should be carried out. It's more about how animals shouldn't be 'mistreated',” she said.
“Even though the workers are stunning the animals before slaughtering them, you can see in the video that it's not working properly. And one employee even seems to be enjoying himself.”
She said the group had called for an immediate reaction from the French government, as well as a “thorough investigation on all slaughterhouse practices in France”.
And the other primary change, she said, can be made by the public.
“We want people to aware, to think about their own responsibility, and of course, to think about stopping eating meat.”
“These animals are sentient beings after all, just like cats and dogs,” she said.
The head of the abattoir in Vigan, Laurent Kauffman, told BFM TV that he was “particularly shocked” to see the footage.
“These are unacceptable acts, they are scandalous,” he told the channel. “I am not always on site, but I have never seen this myself and I am disappointed.”
The abattoir was closed down “provisionally” on Tuesday afternoon.
Animal rights campaigner Brigitte Bardot was among those outraged by the video, and called for the Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll to be stripped of his nationality.
The animal rights group published a similar video in October from an abattoir in Alès, also in the Gard département of southern France. The video was filmed at a typical slaughterhouse (not an “organic” one), and showed similar scenes to Tuesday's footage.
The local mayor closed down the Alès abattoir soon after the video made the rounds online.
“You probably thought that video was a one-off,” says the narrator of the latest horror clip. “But it wasn't.”