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Investigation: Extreme Abuse In Self-Regulated Slaughterhouses

June 28, 2022
cow with rope around his neck cow with rope around his neck

In Brazil, legislation aimed at reducing government oversight inside slaughterhouses has been introduced by the Brazillian Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock. This initiative, also known as the “Self-Control” bill, will give slaughterhouses the power to conduct their own inspections. On June 23, Brazil Senators gave their vote of approval for the new bill, which now awaits the certain approval of Brazil’s President Bolsonaro. 

Animal Equality investigations have shown how animals already suffer within the food supply chain, even with government oversight. Without it, the suffering and abuse will only get worse for the animals.

Cases of abuse and cruelty are frequent inside the slaughterhouses. They are just not worse because of the agricultural inspection. [The approval of this initiative] will represent decades of regression and animals will be deeply unprotected against acts of abuse.

-Carla Lettieri, Executive Director for Brazil, Animal Equality

Over 6 billion animals, including cows, pigs, and chickens, are slaughtered for food every year in Brazil, which remains the world’s largest exporter of meat from cows. In the United States, one in every ten imports of meat from cows comes from Brazil.

Despite Brazil’s exports of meat from cows on the rise, the government does not want to hire and pay for more inspectors. Over the last 20 years, the number of federal slaughterhouse inspections has already been drastically reduced. The government has gotten rid of 37% of their slaughterhouse inspectors, despite the export of meat from cows increasing by more than 400%.

With this decrease in inspectors, animals in Brazil slaughterhouses are already experiencing extreme cruelty. A new Animal Equality investigation inside three of these self-regulated slaughterhouses shows just how bad animals will suffer with the passing of the “Self-Control” bill.

cow being dragged by neck with rope

The investigation revealed:

  • Workers beating, kicking, and shocking the cows;
  • Workers twisted cows’ tails twisted to induce pain and make them move;
  • Cows dragged violently by ropes;
  • Cows that were fully conscious were slaughtered after being ineffectively stunned;
  • And, cows being skinned and their legs cut while still alive.

Yet, the slaughterhouses committing these extreme abuses are left to conduct their own animal welfare inspections. In addition to animal cruelty, basic hygienic-sanitary requirements were violated. In one instance, the muscle of a cow being skinned was in contact with the filthy slaughterhouse floor. Despite these clear animal welfare and health infractions, these companies have been able to sell their meat with a seal of inspection.

This is not the first time Animal Equality has fought against the suffering inside self-regulated slaughterhouses. In 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) made changes to its slaughter regulations, allowing slaughterhouse employees to do their own inspections. In response, Animal Equality, along with six animal and environmental protection organizations, filed a lawsuit to challenge the new USDA rule. 

With footage by national animal advocacy nonprofit, Animal Outlook, Animal Equality showed the severe abuse inside these self-regulated pig and chicken farms. Slaughterhouses increased production by killing animals even quicker. As these speeds increased, so did animal cruelty. At chicken slaughterhouses, for example, workers slammed chickens into shackles, breaking their bones. Birds were also found boiled alive after being improperly stunned.

A sworn statement by veteran USDA inspector Jill Mauer noted the lack of hygienic-sanitary conditions in the self-regulated pig slaughterhouses. In the statement, Mauer described:

  • Citations for increases in fecal contamination have increased;
  • Toenails, hair, and abscesses routinely found in meat intended for human consumption;
  • And, diseased pigs, including those with conditions that can trigger serious health problems in humans, were allowed for human consumption.

The U.S. lawsuit against the USDA is ongoing, but Animal Equality will not give up on the animals suffering at these self-regulated slaughterhouses. Now, we will fight just as hard for Brazil’s farmed animals who will now face the same horrific fate with the passing of the “Self-Control” bill. 

More than 70 billion land animals are killed for food every year across the globe. Their suffering at the hands of the meat industry must stop, and it is our responsibility to stop it. You can do your part to help farmed animals worldwide by keeping them off of your plate. Get inspired with plant-based recipes on

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