Published: 17:33, 24 January 2020
| Updated: 09:31, 10 February 2020
A decision to clear a Tunbridge Wells abattoir of breaching animal welfare regulations has been described as a "terrible injustice".
Forge Farm Meats, in Powder Mill Lane, Southborough, was facing 14 charges for contravening EU rules, but the case was dropped, because of a lack of evidence.
Animal protection group, Animal Aid, whose undercover footage of the abattoir was the basis of the case, has expressed its dismay over the result and claims the animals were treated cruelly.
However, Forge Farm Meats director, Steve Bailey, said the company takes animal welfare "very seriously" and said the firm and its workers were cleared of any wrongdoing.
Sevenoaks magistrates this week declared the case against the firm, and two workers, closed.
Two men who worked as business operators at the company in April 2017 and had pleaded not guilty to breaching animal welfare regulations also had their cases dismissed this week.
Brian Luck, 25, of Hornbeam Avenue, Southborough, and George Mason, 56, of Hurstwood Avenue, Emsworth, Hampshire, were told their cases will not progress.
Animal Aid filmed work at the abattoir during three days between between April and May 2017.
According to Animal Aid, after an animal has been stunned, they should be bled within 15 seconds, so they do not regain consciousness before being killed.
Footage allegedly showed one sheep fall from the suspension, where animals are hung before being killed, and put back up without being stunned again.
Animal Aid claimed the sheep showed signs of consciousness.
A sheep's head could be seen jammed in a door for about 10 seconds and a worker stood on the animals' back.
One animal is also smacked in the face and sworn at, Animal Aid say.
The group also suspect from the footage, which KentOnline decided not to publish due to its graphic nature, sheep received painful shocks rather than being stunned, and have been killed fully conscious.
"We feel the British justice system has woefully failed defenceless animals, who were subjected to some horrendous incidents of callous cruelty by workers at the slaughterhouse"
The case was dropped after judge, Paul Goldspring, ruled there was not enough evidence to prosecute.
Steve Bailey, director of Forge Farm Meats said an Animal Aid campaign manager had possibly tampered with the footage, "in effect fabricating evidence".
He said: "Employees of Forge Farm Meats Ltd have been cleared of any wrongdoing or animal welfare issues.
"We as a company take animal welfare very seriously."
Following the decision, Tor Bailey, Animal Aid campaign manager, said: "Animal Aid is deeply disappointed to learn that the cruelty case against Forge Farm.
"We feel the British justice system has woefully failed defenceless animals, who were subjected to some horrendous incidents of callous cruelty by workers at the slaughterhouse. Investigating and exposing animal cruelty is a vital part of our work, and we will not be deterred by this terrible injustice."
Animal Aid said in response it never tampered with evidence.