Slaughter with love, Maribor, 2020-2022

In 2020, a group of activists for the first time secretly documented the conditions of animals inside a modern Slovenian slaughterhouse. The company Košaki TMI, which manages the slaughterhouse, is marketing itself to the public with the slogan “Produced with a full measure of love”. The secretly obtained footage, however, shows huge agitation, fear, stress and suffering of pigs, bulls, cows, sows, calves, and piglets throughout the entire slaughter process - from lairage and unloading to stunning and final death of the animal.

As seen in the video, farmed animals are subjected to physical abuse and shouting by the impatient slaughtermen who forcibly move the animals down the slaughter line using electric prods, sometimes repeatedly using them on faces, genitalia, and other sensitive areas of animals. The stunning procedure is also not merciful. Pigs are moved in groups to a caged gondola that takes them inside a gas chamber where they are to be stunned with a high concentration of carbon dioxide.

This is a stunning method the industry regards as one of the best in terms of animal welfare.

However, the reality is far from the sanitised picture of pigs calmly falling asleep due to hypoxia. Instead, the pigs are seen desperately trying to escape, climbing over each other and screaming in agony and fear as they lose consciousness due to the highly aversive gas. The piglets, on the other hand, are stunned by a much lower-tech method - they are simply hit over the head with a butcher's hook. After stunning, successful or often not, the pigs and piglets are raised by their hind leg and stabbed in the chest above the heart.

On the other slaughter line bulls - but also cows and calves - do not have it any easier. They are forcibly moved into a restraining box where they are mechanically immobilised and their heads raised. While waiting in the box, the restrained bulls can smell and see the disembowelled and already-skinned corpses of other bulls, contributing to their stress and fear. Then, an operator applies a pneumatic gun to the bull's forehead to stun them. If it goes well and the operator hits the right spot, the bulls immediately lose all their senses, they collapse and are lifted by the leg to have their throats cut. However, as shown in the footage, many bulls only receive very painful and paralysing damage to their skulls. They are then either restunned or are bled out showing clear signs of consciousness.

Almost all described methods of moving, stunning and killing farmed animals are completely legal under EU law (council regulation 1099/2009/ES). The exception is the excessive application of cattle prods to animals' sensitive areas and some workers did not apply an alternative stunning procedure when the primary one clearly failed. However, it should be noted that the law clearly states/admits that no stunning/slaughter technique is without fault. This is true for laboratory conditions but even more so when animals are subjected to real-life slaughterhouse conditions such as in Košaki or other slaughterhouses across Europe.

The concept of 'humane slaughter' or the idea of treating animals on the slaughter line "with a full measure of love" is therefore exposed as a deceptive marketing ploy. The slaughterhouse industry deliberately hides and lies about the treatment of animals on their property. They mislead their customer base and the wider public with images of happy, calm (and wide-eyed dumb) animals painlessly falling asleep or voluntarily approaching bloodied slaughtermen. The reality of course is quite the opposite: the non-compliant animals are barely treated as anything more than objects as they are forced down the slaughter line to a painful and premature violent death.