A seven-minute video showing cows at two slaughterhouses being severely beaten, having large quantities of water pumped into their stomachs, having their nostrils pierced with iron wire and being tied up to prevent them from struggling was revealed by an animal welfare advocacy group yesterday.
The group called for a thorough government investigation and a public boycott to stop such cruelty.
Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan director Chen Yu-min (陳玉敏) said the cows had hoses of 2cm in diameter and 200cm long inserted through their mouths to their stomachs and were forced to ingest about 80 liters of water (about twice the daily necessary amount) in two minutes, three to four times a day.
“The cows cannot resist because their noses were pierced and tied to railings. The forced pumping of water causes great pain and vomiting,” she said, adding that such treatment violated the Animal Protection Act (動物保護法).
Chen said her group received an anonymous report in July last year about the abusive treatment meted out to cattle at slaughterhouses and that it had subsequently gathered evidence of cruelty at a meat market in Greater Tainan’s Shanhua (善化) and Fubo Slaughterhouse in New Taipei City (新北市).
The group filed two complaints with the Council of Agriculture in April, asking it to investigate the issue at more than 10 slaughterhouses nationwide, Chen said, adding that the council said it had not found such behavior.
Homemakers’ Union Consumers Cooperative president Huang Shu-teh (黃淑德) attributed it to a misunderstanding by the slaughterhouse managers, who say cows often become dehydrated during transport to the slaughterhouses, losing up to 15 percent of their body weight.
“Actually only about 30 to 40 kilograms of meat from a cow of about 300 to 400 kilograms can be sold at meat markets, so pumping the cows with water is not an effective way to gain profit from added weight,” Huang said. “The dehydration problem can be solved by providing water troughs in the slaughter houses, which the cows will drink by themselves, instead of forcing them to drink more than the total amount of water they need in a day at one time.”
Chen said her group would bring fraud charges against the slaughterhouses for lying to consumers about their production systems and breaking the law. It will also sue the council for negligence, she said.
Taiwan Beef Industry Progress Association managing supervisor Chien Ting-tsu (簡鼎足) said although the association will need to investigate to confirm whether the alleged behavior takes place at other slaughterhouses, he believes the inhumane water pumping has been carried out by only a few workers and for two possible reasons.
“The water pumping makes it easier to separate the cow’s skin from the meat after slaughter and it may have been done by lazy workers to clean the intestines and stomach before slaughtering,” he said.
The council responded through a press release, saying veterinarians are responsible for examining the 14 operating slaughterhouses nationwide and the number of cows under examination had increased from 127 in 2000 to 30,831 this year.
The video provided by the group showed clear evidence of illegal behavior, so the council has demanded that the local government agencies judge the cases based on the facts and fine the identified slaughterhouses between NT$30,000 and NT$150,000 based on the Animal Industry Act (畜牧法). The errant firms could also be shut down if they do not make improvements before a specified deadline, it added.