Welfare charities and H&H readers have reacted with shock to undercover footage from Red Lion Abattoir in Cheshire that shows inhumane practices and cruelty to horses being slaughtered.

Footage shown on Sky News on Saturday (19 January), showed horses being hit with iron bars and groups of horses being crammed into pens before being stunned together — which is illegal in the UK.

In one of the most distressing incidents, a horse appears to come around as it hangs from the ceiling and seriously ill or injured horses are left to suffer rather than being dispatched promptly.

Only two abattoirs in the UK are licensed to slaughter horses — Red Lion Abattoir in Cheshire and Potter’s in Somerset.

Animal welfare group Hillside Animal Sanctuary fitted secret cameras at the Cheshire abattoir and passed the footage to Sky.

World Horse Welfare chief executive Roly Owers said the practices they found were “disgusting, appalling and totally illegal”.

“What we have seen is a complete, systemic failure of the slaughterhouse to comply with UK welfare laws,” he said.

“We are now calling for all operations at these premises to be suspended until new procedures are put in place and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) guarantees the plant will comply with the law.”

A World Horse Welfare petition calling for CCTV in all UK slaughterhouses already has more than 16,000 signatures. Sign the petition.

And the British Horse Society’s chief executive Lynn Peterson said: “The treatment of these horses was barbaric, inhumane and frankly a downright disgrace in 21st Century Britain.”

The licences of two slaughtermen at the Red Lion Abattoir have been revoked by the FSA and they could be prosecuted.

In a statement to Sky, the abattoir said the incidents were “not the norm, but of an isolated nature” and they have taken disciplinary action against the person involved.

The statement continued: “In attendance at The Red Lion Abattoir are three full-time food standards officers comprising of an official veterinarian and full-time meat hygiene inspectors throughout production.

“Horses should individually enter the stunning area and most certainly not three at a time.

“However, small horses and ponies having spent years together as companions are difficult to separate. Horse lovers would understand that.”

The Red Lion Abattoir added that its meat was not part of the recent supermarket burger scandal.

*Warning this video contains extremely distressing content*

View the video on youtube