Slaughterhouses in England will have to install CCTV as part of government plans to monitor animal welfare.
Under rules being phased in over the next year, Food Standards Agency vets will be able to ask to see footage of all areas where livestock are held. Slaughterhouses found to be failing welfare standards could face a criminal investigation or lose staff licences.
Currently, keepers of animals bred for meat must meet animal welfare laws and codes of practice, which cover the treatment of livestock including how they are fed, housed and transported, as well as how they are killed.
Abattoirs in England must meet welfare regulations, with separate rules in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and additional EU regulations. Plans to make CCTV mandatory in all slaughterhouses are being considered by the Welsh government.
The government has said it plans to increase standards for farm animals and domestic pets in England by updating these statutory animal welfare codes. Breaches would result in a welfare enforcement notice, the suspending or revoking of staff licences or referral for a criminal investigation.
The first codes to be revised will cover chickens bred for meat, followed by laying hens, pigs, dogs, cats and horses over the course of the next year.
New codes were needed to reflect modernising medicines, technology, as well as the latest research and advice from vets, the government said.
FSA chairwoman Heather Hancock said the watchdog supported compulsory CCTV in abattoirs, since voluntary adoption by slaughterhouses had reached a “plateau”.
She said: “We look forward to the introduction of a comprehensive requirement for using, accessing and retaining footage from CCTV in abattoirs. We see CCTV as an invaluable management tool for business owners to help with compliance with official controls and to improve animal welfare standards across the industry.”
British Veterinary Association (BVA) president Gudrun Ravetz said the mandatory CCTV in all areas of slaughterhouses was “essential” to safeguarding animal welfare.
“We are particularly pleased to see a commitment to official veterinarians having unrestricted access to footage, which the BVA has been calling for,” he said.
“Vets’ independence and unique qualifications help ensure that the UK will continue to have the highest standards of animal health, welfare and food safety.”
This news comes a year after the French parliament voted to install CCTV in abattoirs after a damning report exposed extreme levels of animal cruelty in these facilities.
Animal Aid’s response
Animal Aid first began investigating slaughterhouses in 2009. The organisation has now filmed inside 14 slaughterhouses, and found lawbreaking on a disturbing scale. This has included animals being beaten, having cigarettes stubbed out on them, and even being deliberately given electric shocks. In May 2017, Animal Aid released a damning dossier of evidence entitled Britain’s Failing Slaughterhouses. This revealed that 93 per cent of slaughterhouses filmed by Animal Aid and others had been found to be breaking animal welfare laws.
The campaign group is also calling for a proper system of independent monitoring, which would see random sections of slaughterhouse footage being spot-checked by experts. Last year, a report that was commissioned by Animal Aid and led by Professor Ian Rotherham of Sheffield Hallam University, found that a monitoring system of this kind would be ‘cost-effective and feasible’.
Says Animal Aid Director, Isobel Hutchinson:
‘After many years of campaigning for mandatory, independently monitored CCTV in slaughterhouses, we are greatly encouraged by this news. If implemented, this crucial measure will undoubtedly help to protect vulnerable animals from the kind of gratuitous abuse and violence that we have filmed during our many undercover investigations. Whilst we welcome the access that vets would have to the footage, we urge the government to implement a proper system of independent monitoring, so that slaughterhouses can be routinely spot-checked, and to ensure that robust action is taken when illegal abuse is identified.
‘Although this development is undoubtedly a huge step forward, we urge the public to remember that even when the law is followed to the letter, slaughter is a brutal and pitiless business that can never be cruelty-free. We call on everyone who wants to prevent animal suffering to embrace the growing trend towards compassionate living and go vegan.’
Source: BBC News.