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Investigation: The Secret Slaughterhouses of Brazil

As the Brazilian government moves to give slaughterhouses the ability to regulate themselves, Animal Equality exposes how deregulation will only increase animal cruelty. These images are from illegal slaughterhouses in Brazil—the conditions of which give a glimpse into the future under the Self-Control Bill.
March 15, 2023 Updated: August 20, 2023

In an effort to combat further deregulation of Brazil’s meat industry, Animal Equality is exposing what happens inside clandestine, or ‘backyard,’ slaughterhouses. Investigators not only found extreme animal abuse at the time of slaughter, but also sanitary violations that pose a public health risk. 

The images from this investigation give a glimpse into a future where slaughterhouses are left to regulate themselves under Brazil’s Self-Control Bill. Nearly 7 billion of Brazil’s farmed animals will be at an even greater risk of cruelty with the passing of this bill. 

The Investigation Findings 

Investigators with Animal Equality went undercover inside an illegal, clandestine slaughterhouse to show the conditions animals face without government regulation. 

View the Investigation:

As the footage shows:

  • Cows are forced to watch as other animals are slaughtered. They desperately try to escape the stunning pen but are unsuccessful.
  • Workers forcibly hit animals in the head with sledgehammers in an effort to stun them. Some animals die, but many remain conscious after several blows and are left to suffer until their throats are slit at slaughter.
  • Animals are skinned while conscious due to ineffective stunning prior to slaughter.
  • The slaughterhouse operates under a severe lack of hygienic and sanitary conditions without regulation of the MAPA (Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply). Employees cut dead animals on the floor of the dirty facility.

Nearly 50% of meat consumed in Brazil comes from clandestine facilities like the one investigated. And as the largest meat producer in the world, the illegal activities and lack of sanitary conditions inside these facilities pose a serious global health risk. 

In 2022, the US alone imported meat from over 850,000 cows slaughtered in Brazil.

What This Investigation Shows for the Future of Brazil’s Farmed Animals

Last year, the Brazillian Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock introduced the Self-Control Bill, which seeks to decrease government oversight of slaughterhouses. This decrease in government inspectors is an even further reduction from the already 37% decrease that has happened over the last 20 years.

Animal Equality’s team joined more than 30 other organizations to mobilize against the ‘Self-Control’ Bill. As part of these efforts, we released an investigation inside three Brazilian slaughterhouses to show how limited oversight is already allowing for increased animal abuse. A further reduction will only increase this cruelty.

Despite strong efforts, the Self-Control Bill was still sanctioned. In response, we filed a Lawsuit of Unconstitutionality at the Federal Supreme Court to repeal critical articles of the Self-Control Bill. These efforts are being supported by dozens of other institutions.

The US is no exception to unregulated slaughter. In 2020, the US Government decreased USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) oversight of slaughterhouses. Without regulation, facilities ramped up production by increasing line speeds. As shown by footage captured by Animal Outlook, as line speeds increased, so did animal cruelty. 

Inside unregulated pig and chicken slaughterhouses, workers handled animals roughly as they worked to meet production demands. Chickens were slammed into shackles, breaking their fragile bones. Pigs had their throats slit while conscious on production lines, while chickens were found scalded alive.

Using the evidence captured by Animal Outlook, Animal Equality filed a lawsuit to combat the new and lacking regulations. We continue to fight against this new USDA rule that allows the industry that causes enormous suffering to regulate itself. 

How You Can Help:

Cows, pigs, chickens and other animals are suffering greatly around the world, and right here in the US, for the production of meat, dairy and eggs. These products are never cruelty-free, and their suffering will continue unless we put an end to their exploitation for good. 

Sign Animal Equality’s End Factory Farming petition to add your name to a list of supporters who denounce cruelty to animals:

You can end this cruelty! Please sign our petition calling for the end of factory farming in the United States.

The best way to protect animals is to choose plant-based alternatives to meat, dairy and eggs. Those who consume animal products end up financing crimes such as illegal slaughter. Commit to reducing or eliminating food products made from animals from your meals. Discover delicious, animal-free recipes and tips to start your vegan journey at Love Veg.

Rescued hen held by Animal Equality volunteer


With rich emotional lives and unbreakable family bonds, farmed animals deserve to be protected.

You can build a kinder world by replacing animal food products with plant‑based ones.

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