ESSEX Police is investigating alleged animal cruelty after footage appeared to show pigs being attacked.

Officers are examining the footage and how it was obtained by the animal rights group, Animal Aid, which claims it filmed the abuse at an abbatoir in Little Warley.

The group says it put a camera in at Orchard Farm, which is run by Elmkirk (Cheale Meats) Ltd.

Animal Aid claims the footage shows pigs being burnt with cigarettes and beaten with bats.

They also claim pigs, which were either severely injured or beaten, were forced to drag themselves to slaughter through the stun pen, where the animals are electrically shocked.

The abattoir has denied the allegations and claims the footage was obtained illegally.

A spokesman for the police said: “Police in Brentwood are investigating the circumstances over how the footage was taken and whether any criminal offences have been committed.

“We will also be working with other agencies in regard to the footage which was broadcast that appear to show pictures of animal cruelty.”

Kate Fowler, head of campaigns at Animal Aid, said: “We did not break any laws and all we did was wander into the building on several occasions over a couple of months, without breaking windows or forcing doors open, to get the footage.

“We are not worried about any threatened criminal procedures against us.”

The group says it uncovered the findings as part of an investigation into eight other slaughterhouses and said the shocking footage was entirely from the Elmkirk abbatoir.

Jamie Foster, Elmkirk’s solicitor, said: “Given the source of this material, Elmkirk would not accept that all or any of the activities shown on this video relate to their premises.

“I have been involved in cases previously where such evidence has been ruled to be inadmissible or the prosecution has declined to rely on evidence which has been obtained by burglary or other unlawful means.”

Government department Defra is not thought to be investigating the footage because of issues as to how it was obtained.