The truth behind the Roquefort sector

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The truth behind the Roquefort sector

23 June 2020
L214
News
In the investigation conducted earlier this year L214 exposes the Roquefort sector: a multi-million euro business where sheep milk is turned into the famous Roquefort blue cheese. The investigation shows terrible conditions endured by sheep which are not kept for their milk, during the fattening and slaughter process.

To keep on producing milk destined to be transformed into the world's known Roquefort blue cheese, sheep must constantly give birth to lambs. More than 80% of sheep in the sector are artificially inseminated with over a million lambs born every year.

Only 25% of them (female) are kept on farms to renew the herd and produce milk. The rest - between 500,000 and 800,000 lambs - are either sent directly to a slaughterhouse or first to an intensive farm to be fattened, followed by a slaughterhouse.

L214 conducted an investigation on France's largest lamb fattening farm - SARL Grimal and The Arcadie Sud-Ouest - the industrial slaughterhouse where part of the lambs from SARL Grimal are slaughtered.

WARNING: The video contains disturbing images

SARL Grimal, located in Aveyron, is responsible for the fattening of 120,000 lambs per year, or 10% of lambs born on the territory from which the protected brand of Roquefort milk and cheese comes from. The footage shows thousands of lambs crammed into buildings, without access to an outside area, with a number of sick lambs, some left to agonizing deaths.

At the Arcadie Sud-Ouest industrial slaughterhouse a lamb is slaughtered every 10 seconds in, what can likely be, an exceptionally cruel way. Lambs are slaughtered alive (ritual slaughter) or sometimes stunned before being bled to death. The stunning, done by electrocution, is a bad practice which often leads to immobilizing the lambs, instead of making them unconscious. This creates even more suffering as they are still alive and fully aware when they are put on hanging hooks and bled. The appalling conditions have already been reported in 2016 by the veterinary services in charge of the area. Their report notes "major nonconformities in stunning and slaughter of sheep"

Roquefort production is inseparable from the production of lambs which are born each year to cause the lactation of sheep. The sector promotes outdoors access to the sheep but ignores the fate of lambs which are fattened under intensive farming operations. The production of milk and dairy products is, like the production of meat, the cause of great suffering and the premeditated killing of millions of animals each year.

Sébastien Arsac, L214 spokesperson

This investigation provides more evidence as to why the slaughter regulation needs to be review, not only to not allow cruel practices as seen in the footage, but also to make the EU and Member States fully enforce it. 

Together with other investigations into other quality labels, such as the exposure of the cruelty behind the production of Parma ham, this investigation demonstrates that quality labels do not necessarily go hand in hand with higher animal welfare practices. Moreover, it makes a stronger case for denominations such as IGP/DPO, perceived by the consumers as quality and legally called “quality labels” under EU law, to broaden their scope beyond geographic denomination and integrate  AW standards beyond EU minimums on their specifications. 

Finally, this investigation sheds more light as to why the EU animal welfare legislation does not only need to be reviewed, but also needs to be expanded with species specific legislation, to provide better protection for animals in production systems not currently covered, such as lambs and adult sheep. 

L214 will take up the following actions:

  • Lodge a complaint to the public prosecutor of Rodez for serious animal abuse and request an emergency closure of the slaughterhouse.

  • Bring an action of liability against the state of France for failure to monitor the apply the slaughter regulations.

  • Request the General Association of “roquefort” sheep milk producers and manufacturers to modify the specifications for the designation of origin “roquefort”. Currently no legislation is in place for lambs. Enclosure for life without access to pasture and slaughter without stunning should be prohibited.

  • Encourages candidates for the upcoming municipal elections to sign the commitment "A city for animals" comprising a series of concrete measures in favor of animals.

The post 'The truth behind the Roquefort sector' is modified from an article published by L214 Éthique & Animaux in their original language.