Bungling French Agriculture Ministry officials have accidentally sent an animal rights organisation emails discussing “undeniable violations” at a veal production facility at the same time as preparing a statement denying them.
The embarrassing blunder follows the revelations by the animal-rights organisation L214 about the Sobeval veal slaughterhouse in the south-western Dordogne region that included graphic footage of the alleged violations taking place there.
The footage released by L214 shows blood pouring from the necks of calves as they fight for their lives with others trapped in tiny stalls at the veal factory where their meat is exported and their skins sold to the world’s top designers including including Gucci, Chanel and Hermes.
Their 67-page report targets the Sobeval factory – one of four owned by Dutch veal production company VanDrie – in Boulazac on the outskirts of Perigueux, the capital of the Dordogne department in the south-western French region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine.
The report says the factory “has a very high production rate with cutting-edge technology, but it still commits routine infractions to the animal protection regulations in place [in France].”
According to L214, the factory kills 3,400 calves a week. They sell to the supermarkets Auchan and Carrefour, and export their meat under various labels to Egypt, Israel, Japan, the USA and soon Canada. They also produce regular, halal and kosher veal.
On their website, VanDrie claim to be “the world market leader in veal” and boast holding 28 per cent of Europe’s market share. They also claim that “since 2009, the VanDrie Group has produced veal with the Beter Leven seal of approval, issued by the Dutch Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Veal bearing the Beter Leven seal of approval meets higher demands in relation to animal welfare […].”
Video Credit: CEN/L214 (archive)
Archive – Foie Gras Hell: Cute Ducks Suffocated, Force-Fed, Killed
But instead of promising to investigate, the French agricultural ministry appears to have been actively involved in a cover-up.
Sebastien Arsac, the head of L214, has released a statement and he told Central European News (CEN): “Following a referral error, we were the recipient of email exchanges between senior officials of the Ministry of Agriculture (Minister’s office, General Directorate of Food in particular). We can read in particular that a list of ‘undeniable and even major non-conformities’ has been compiled.
“This is completely contrary to what has been communicated publicly, namely that the slaughterhouse complied with the regulations and that our images had ‘not shown any non-compliance with the regulations.'”
Indeed, as can be seen from these images, L214 have released redacted screenshots appearing to show an intense communication taking place between various ministries and government branches, as well as veterinary bodies.
One of them from the Ministry of Agriculture even reads: “Yesterday evening, after communicating with [redacted], I made a list of all the undeniable and even major NCs [ed: Non Conformities] that were recorded! […]”
Video Credit: CEN/L214 (archive)
Archive – Inside Bloodbath Veal Factory That Serves Chanel, Gucci
L214 note that another message appears to focus on the language to be used when addressing the allegations. Apparently referring to previous reports detailing corrections made after ‘non-conformities’ were detected, it reads: “Warning: these very precise elements are ‘reported speech’; it is always possible that exceptionally NCs can be found in these areas and it would be risky to go too far on the issue of all the NCs having been corrected.”
Indeed, L214 say: “Indeed, the images shot in November and December 2019 show that even after the controls, the non-conformities persisted. Contrary to what the DGAL [ed: The French General Directorate of Food] asserts, during slaughter without stunning, the calves are not kept for 45 seconds and no control of the corneal reflex is carried out before the opening of the restraining box: calves are taken out of the box without their loss of consciousness or sensitivity having been verified.”
Another internal email shows that parts or all of what was discussed between government workers might later have been shared with food lobbies (meat lobby INTERBEV and the FedeV, the National Federation of Industrial and Wholesale Meat Trade are named).
After the release of the footage, the Minister of Agriculture, Didier Guillaume, was critical claiming on 23rd February that it had been manipulated, with images spanning “months or years” being spliced together. The same day the footage was released, the Prefecture de la Dordogne (the departement’s governor’s office) published a statement dismissing it. L214 however allege that their footage and their report had been leaked to officials prior to its release.
They claim: “The day before the images were released, within the ministry, the language was quite different. Warned by a journalist, the services of the ministry were on alert: They had the video of the investigation but also the press release, the report and the rushes, supplied under embargo to some journalists. Throughout the day on 19th February, the ministry is active: more than 17 people from the ministry will be in the loop with these emails.”
The end of L214’s latest statement published today reads: “In December 2019, we revealed the fate reserved for female ducklings at the Domaine de la Peyrouse, attached to the agricultural high school of Perigueux: abandoned in the rubbish, these chicks died slow and painful deaths. Since the opening of the Domaine, decades earlier, the Dordogne veterinary services had never noted this major breach of the regulations, condemning hundreds of thousands of ducklings each year to a slow and painful death. Until L214 reported them…
“What confidence can citizens place in a ministry that lies to them to hide its shortcomings, thereby committing a serious fault? What credibility should be given to the Minister of Agriculture? Mr Didier Guillaume must resign.”
The extremely disturbing 12-minute clip is reportedly but a small segment showing the violations L214 allege took place at a VanDrie factory. The activists claim to have over 6 hours of footage that they have submitted to the prosecutor’s office along with a complaint.
The slaughterhouse subsequently announced it would sue L214 for libel.
The Sobeval factory in Boulazac on the outskirts of Perigueux is located not far from the foie gras production facility that made international headlines last year.
That footage was filmed at the Domaine de la Peyrouse foie gras production facility in Coulounieix-Chamiers, which is also on the outskirts of Perigueux. It shows male ducklings being separated from the female ones. The males go on to be force-fed while the females are thrown away alive into huge wheelie bins where they are left to starve or suffocate to death under each other’s bodies.
The L214 association takes its name from article L214-1 of the French Rural Code: “Any sentient animal must be placed by its owner under conditions compatible with the biological imperatives of its species.”
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