Undercover pictures taken in an abattoir in central Thailand show men bludgeoning pigs to death with clubs and using illegal homemade stunning machines.
Thai law states that animals be killed “without suffering” but humane slaughter is rarely practised in smaller abattoirs, according to campaigners.
Pork is so heavily used in Thai cuisine that it is often regarded as a vegetable, served along with green dishes.
The US$3.5-billion Thai pork trade is in the spotlight at the moment amid fears of an outbreak of “pig Ebola”.
The seizure of 558 frozen pigs in Bangkok’s On Nut yesterday (Tuesday) has sparked fears of an outbreak amid rumours that the 1.4 tonnes of meat was smuggled from overseas.
The pork trader was arrested for failing to present documents indicating the source of the pigs and proof of inspection. African swine fever has spread from Europe and Africa to Vietnam, China and Mongolia.
Animal rights remains a neglected area across Asean.
“The Thai public, in general, is not aware of the need for humane killing practices,” said Thai animal rights campaigner Wadchara Pumpradit.
“Farm animals are born to be killed for food and people do not consider their needs or their right to be respected.”
Abattoir regulations were rarely enforced and independent producers and processors were left largely unmonitored, Pumpradit told the Guardian.
“The current monitoring system regarding humane slaughter needs to be strengthened. How can we be sure licensed slaughterhouses are complying with the law when they are not directly monitored?” the activist asked.
Around 18 million pigs are raised per year by an estimated 200,000 producers.
Photographer Jo-Anne McArthur detailed the mammals, which purportedly have the intelligence of a preschool child, arriving in pickups and throughout the slaughter process. She showed them being beaten to death with a wooden bat, sliced with a knife and bleeding out and dumped in boiling water.
Farm animal adviser Kate Blaszak of World Animal Protection said the photos were probably representative of many abattoirs in the region.
“Caged transport is a common mode of transport in southeast Asia. Usually, the animals arrive cramped, dehydrated, exhausted and severely sunburned if they’ve been transported during the day, often across borders,” Blaszak told the media.
“Then you’ve got poor unloading and handling of the animals: falling and slipping pigs, or pigs which are dropped, dragged, beaten and kicked. Clubbing is a manual attempt to stun an animal – to render it unconscious before killing by bleeding by knife. But clubbing is very ineffective in pigs.
“The simple speed of manual clubbing cannot meet the necessary energy for an effective stun. Clubbing just beats, bruises and abuses animals and is ineffective.
“Electrical stunning is sometimes done and usually with completely unregulated stunning equipment, which is sometimes homemade. It’s consistently wrongly applied and completely ineffective as it doesn’t even span the brain. It’s just cruel electric shock and pain. Good practical training and enforcement can overcome all these issues, to the benefit of all involved.”
Thailand slaughters vast numbers of pigs. Picture credit: PXHere