TWO slaughtermen responsible for the "extreme" suffering of sheep were seen dancing and singing as they killed the animals, a court heard.

Four people connected with the former Bowood Abattoir, at Busby Stoop, near Thirsk received suspended prison sentences at Leeds Magistrates Court on Friday for causing suffering to sheep as they were killed.

The charity Animal Aid had obtained covert footage of halal slaughtering at the abattoir in December 2014, which was passed on to the Food Standards Agency.

Howard Shaw, prosecuting for the CPS on behalf of Defra, told the court it revealed, “a large number of sheep were caused to suffer unnecessarily”.

According to strict regulations on halal slaughter, animals must be killed with a single, clean cut to the throat and then allowed to lose consciousness for 30 seconds before being moved on to the next stage of slaughter in a bid to minimise suffering.

But footage showed slaughtermen Kazam Hussain, 44 and Kabir Hussain, 55, of Bradford, waiting between one and 11 seconds before the animals were sent on to be strung up by their back legs on the processing line, still conscious.

Animal Aid footage played to the court showed at one point Kazam and Kabir dancing and singing as they killed the sheep.

The footage also showed conveyor belt operator, Artur Lewandowski, 33, of Ribble Drive, Darlington picking a sheep up by its fleece at the neck and at one point pulling his fist back as if to punch a sheep which was resisting, as it was sent towards the area where they were killed.

Mr Shaw told the court: “There’s one incident where the sheep is struggling. He draws back his fist in a punching motion but doesn’t actually punch the sheep.

“He almost throws the animal on to the conveyor belt by its fleece.”

The court heard that the two slaughtermen were professionally qualified and licensed and killed the sheep in accordance with regulations on halal slaughter when watched by the on-site vet, Pedro Benitez.

But Mr Benitez had witnessed animals being given less than 20 seconds to lose consciousness the previous year on the abattoir’s CCTV system and raised his concerns with director William Woodward.

Mr Woodward’s response was to accuse him of “spying” and lodge a complaint against Mr Benitez with the Food Standards Agency. He also refused to allow him further access to the room where the CCTV monitor was situated.

The undercover footage by Animal Aid provoked a national uproar, sparking protests outside the premises and condemnation from the Muslim Council of Britain.

The Government has now introduced legislation that makes CCTV mandatory in slaughterhouses.

William Woodward, 32, who now lives in Northamptonshire, had earlier pleaded guilty to failing to prevent unnecessary suffering of animals.

The court heard he was young when he took over the business with his father and the farmers had no previous experience of abattoirs and consequently relied too much on his manager and staff to ensure regulations were being followed.

Bowood Farms Ltd went into administration on December 2015.

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. He was given a community order to complete 150 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay costs of £160.

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. He was given a 16 week suspended prison sentence and ordered to pay £580 costs.

Kazam 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. He was given an 18-week suspended prison sentence and also ordered to pay £580 costs.

Two other slaughtermen were identified in the covert footage, who the court heard would also have faced animal cruelty charges, but they left the UK.

Woodward was ordered to pay £5,080 towards prosecution costs and given a 20 week suspended prison sentence.

In sentencing, District Judge Marie Mallon told former director Woodward: “It was your business. The suffering was extreme, and it wasn’t an isolated incident.”

Speaking after the hearing, Animal Aid campaign manager, Tor Bailey said: "We greet these sentences with huge disappointment, since we do not feel that they reflect the severity of the abuses uncovered by our investigation.

"At Bowood slaughterhouse we filmed horrendous incidents of cruelty, which were meted out to defenceless animals."