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Dear friends and donors,

I just returned from Turkey a little while ago and wanted to write to you about how things went.

In 2013, trainer and inspector Asalet and I started inspecting slaughterhouses in Turkey where animals from Europe were being transported to. Back then we saw how French bulls, roughly 700 kg, were being fully hoisted off the floor and left like that for 1- 2 minutes until the slaughterman was ready to start hacking into their necks with a short knife, to try to bleed them out.
Turkey 2013: bulls weighing 700 kg are hoisted off the floor alive and left there for minutes.

Nightmares

Those screams that I heard from the bulls hanging alive by one leg gave me nightmares for 3 weeks when I returned. Asalet was not much better off. He turned all white and collapsed during a presentation we gave to veterinarian students at the Istanbul Veterinarian Faculty in between slaughterhouse inspections.

It was then that we decided we needed to do everything we could think of to change what was taking place inside these plants. That was a the beginning of a long-term project!

Significant improvements

Today, the majority of the 900 slaughterhouses in Turkey are likely still the same – electric prodding, trip-floor restraint boxes, live hoisting and cutting the throats while conscious. But those that we have had the time to repeatedly visit and work with, have improved.

The improvements are small, but also significant. When you think that these methods of killing animals have been in place for hundreds of years, and slaughtering by cutting without stunning is highly defended by dominant religious figures, these improvements are quite significant. I like to think of them as the snowball that is building up to start rolling! 

Less animal suffering

Now, six cattle slaughterhouses are equipped with our stunners and are keeping most of the bovine either upright - or at least on the floor and stunning them before hoisting them.

Sadly not all animals are being stunned. It largely depends on the customer. Some customers insist on not stunning the animals, fearing it is not halal. But Asalet continues to spend hours talking to religious authorities, imams, and customers to break the myth that stunning is not halal. We even have two slaughterhouses that are fanatically in favour of stunning, and are now spreading the word for us too. Almost as if we have more “Eyes on Animals”  people on the ground.

Word is spreading, the use of stunners is spreading, people are more educated now on the benefits of stunning and on the importance of keeping animals upright.
Here below is a short description of our recent visit to Turkey and what steps we achieved this time.
Asalet and I talking to the head slaughterer at a plant near Bandirma. We leased out one of our captive bolt pistols to him in 2019. Two years later he continues to stun the cattle while they are upright, he no longer hoists them off the ground while still conscious. He says the stunner is much better for animal welfare and his own safety.
A slaughterhouse near Bolu improved their raceway with us several years ago. Now in 2021 they were ready to learn how to use a stunner. We taught them, first on already slaughtered animals and after on live cattle arriving. On that day, all cattle were rendered unconscious first.
At another plant near Goenen, all cattle were stunned under our supervision for the first time. Here I am showing how to check that the animal is unconscious before further handling.
At most slaughterhouses in Turkey sheep and goats are hoisted by one leg while fully alive too (see photo above left).

But at this small slaughterhouse near Istanbul (see photo above right) that we have been working with, the owner and main slaughterer are avid promoters now of the stunner that we gave them last year. We were again welcomed at their plant with open arms this October. They spread the word through social media of how keeping sheep and cattle upright and stunning them first is clearly better for their welfare than the old fashioned method.
Asalet and I met with the Head of Animal Slaughter affairs at the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture in October. The Ministry has confirmed that the use of stunners in Turkish slaughterhouses is permitted.

We remain with the animals

What this project has taught me, is the power of dialogue and education. It makes no sense just to criticize and walk away with footage. We need to stay for the long term, teach new ways to do things, and help.

I know it is strange for an NGO to be involved in slaughter like this, when deep down we wish no animal had to be killed. But we need to be a part of the solution. Because if NGOs like us do not do it, who will? And without these improvements, animals everywhere will just continue to be live hoisted and cut while conscious.
Please support this project with a donation. We lease out the stunners for free. This equipment is expensive. We also need to be in the field often enough to avoid any of these plants falling back into bad habits, and also to keep the momentum to convince other plants to also make the switch.
Support this project >
Thank you!
Lesley Moffat
director Eyes on Animals
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