THREE slaughtermen and an abattoir boss have admitted causing unnecessary suffering to sheep as they were being put to death after a three-year battle to bring the case to court.

Undercover footage of the halal slaughtering at Bowood Abattoir, near Thirsk, by campaign group Animal Aid in December 2014 caused uproar, sparking protests outside the premises, condemnation from the Muslim Council of Britain and calls to the government for CCTV to be installed in slaughterhouses across the country.

The film showed a worker hacking and sawing at animals’ throats, in contravention of Islamic practice, as well as sheep being kicked in the face and head and being hurled into metal walls, taunted and frightened by workers at the abattoir.

Yesterday, the case against the men got underway at Northallerton Magistrates Court where a four-day trial was due to be held after they pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The men changed their pleas to guilty to some of the charges relating to offences committed between December 1 and 9 in 2014.

Three slaughtermen admitted separate charges of causing suffering to the animals.

Artur Lewandowski, 33, of Ribble Drive, Darlington, admitted a charge of causing unnecessary suffering to four sheep by lifting them by their fleeces during the slaughter process.

Kabeer Hussain, 44, of Brantwood Road, Bradford admitted one charge of failing to give 24 sheep sufficient time to lose consciousness after they were slaughtered.

Kazeem Hussain, 53, of Haworth Road, Bradford, pleaded guilty to two charges - one of not giving 19 sheep sufficient time to lose consciousness after they were slaughtered and a further charge of failing to cut the throats of six sheep in the required manner with a single cut.

The owner of the business William Woodward, 32, from Catesby in Daventry, admitted, as the owner of Bowood Farms Ltd, failing to prevent acts by several employees that caused the animals to suffer.

A similar charge against his father Robert Woodward, 68, of the same address, was dropped after no evidence was offered by the prosecution.

The case was adjourned for reports and transferred to Leeds Magistrates Court for a hearing on March 2.

At one point, the high-profile case was declared legally void by a district judge because of delays in the prosecution being brought and evidence being passed between the Food Standards Agency and the Crown Prosecution Service.

The Crown Prosecution Service appealed against the ruling and won permission to continue with the case.

Bowood, once a £29m turnover meat supplier, was sold out of administration to another firm in 2016.

Following the release of the Animal Aid footage, the deputy leader of North Yorkshire County Council and butcher Councillor Gareth Dadd and Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake backed a campaign to force all abattoirs to install CCTV footage which could be inspected by Government vets.

Cllr Dadd said at the time: "Incidents like those recently reported near Thirsk are not only abhorrent in terms of animal welfare, they also run the risk of damaging the reputation of our excellent local operators."

The then Thirsk MP and chairman of the House of Commons Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Committee Anne McIntosh described the revelations as “deeply shocking”.

As protests continued, Bowood issued a statement saying: "Despite the fact that we take all possible precautions, it is impossible to ensure that human beings will never fall below the required standards."

Last year, the Food Standards Agency announced CCTV was being made compulsory in all slaughterhouses across England.