French authorities have partially lifted suspension on a veal abattoir after an investigation into an undercover video from an animal welfare charity.

Sobeval, part of the Van Drie group, had slaughtering activities halted on Feb. 28 by officials in the Dordogne region of France after an inspection report by the Directorate General for Food (DGAL).

The site is approved for slaughtering calves in a traditional or ritual way such as Kosher and Halal. Findings highlighted a lack of control over the conditions for slaughtering animals by employees and a shortage of training and awareness.

The association L214 claimed images shot in November and December 2019 showed violations of the law and increased suffering for animals. The slaughterhouse in Dordogne kills 3,400 calves each week, at a rate of around 90 per hour, according to the association.

Sobeval was permitted to resume conventional slaughter this week with a gradual ramp-up and reinforced supervision, provided by a veterinarian newly recruited by the company.

Another assessment will be done in two weeks to verify the slaughter operations. Total lifting of the suspension will occur at a later stage, when authorities are satisfied about guarantees provided by Sobeval for ritual slaughter.

Focus on training and procedures
Brigitte Gothière, co-founder of the L214 association, said a few days could not have been enough to resolve all the issues.

“In three days, it is impossible to have remedied the structural and training flaws of the personnel within this slaughterhouse. It is scandalous that the pressure of trade unions and other private economic interests comes before the simple respect of a regulation which places limits, however minimal, to the suffering endured by animals,” she said.

Sobeval presented proposals to improve the system to control conditions of conventional slaughter to authorities. Staff responsible for compliance with animal protection rules have been retrained and given instructions on changes to the operational slaughtering procedures.

A revised slaughter process was tested on March 3 under supervision which verified operators had taken into account the changes and slaughter complied with animal protection regulations.

Due to the size of the slaughterhouse, eight state officials are present daily including two veterinarians. An inspection was carried out in mid-November 2019 as is done twice a year on slaughterhouses like the one in Dordonne.

A statement from Sobeval welcomed the resumption of activity and emphasized effectiveness of implemented corrective measures.

The company said it has made improvements to its standard operating procedures and boosted operator training. An external expert veterinarian will perform quality monitoring of the measures put in place in the coming weeks.

The video from L214, in French, can be viewed by following this link

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