Crown Court judge brands CCTV surveillance in slaughterhouses ‘inadequate’ – despite government claims of ‘reducing animal cruelty’

Author: Liam Gilliver

Read Time:   |  5th July 2023

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A Crown Court judge has hit out at the effectiveness of CCTV surveillance in slaughterhouses following a slew of undercover investigations…


A Crown Court judge has branded CCTV surveillance in slaughterhouses as ‘inadequate’.

Last month, the government published a report reviewing its 2018 policy that requires all English slaughterhouses to install and operate a CCTV system.

This covers all areas of the abattoir, including where live animals are unloaded, kept, handled, stunned and killed.

The legislation was spearheaded by a series of undercover investigations that found cases of ‘deliberate animal cruelty’ – including in slaughterhouses where CCTV was already installed.


CCTV in slaughterhouses – is it effective?

Now, the government claims the policy has reduced the number of animal welfare non-compliances by 11 percent.

“While mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses is not a panacea for preventing poor animal welfare standards…” the report reads.

“There’s evidence to suggest it has by allowing for increased identification of incidences and enforcement.”

The report also acknowledges that the ‘potency of the deterrent’ of mandatory CCTV May decrease over time.

However, a slew of animal-rights advocates and legal experts have spoken out countering the government’s review.

NGOs Animal Justin Project and Animal Equality have flagged a number of covert investigations that have taken place since the 2018 regulation.

These evidence ‘extreme and regular animal welfare abuses’ that had either been undetected by CCTV or not acted upon by authorities.

As a result, consumers are being urged to ‘be aware that animal abuse remains rife in slaughterhouses’.


15 mins of footage – is it enough?

The Food Standards Agency are legally required to monitor both live and historical footage on a regular basis.

The regulation requires this is done on every operational day, as well as on an ad-hoc basis.

However, only ‘15 minutes of footage’ must be viewed under this policy.

Last month, Animal Justice Project released disturbing footage of pigs being struck by paddles inside a Morrisons abattoir.

The charity claims this daily occurrence happened in full view of CCTV, yet nothing was being done to stop the violence because ‘CCTV is not watched as the norm in slaughterhouses’.

Last month, Animal Justice Project released disturbing footage of pigs being struck by paddles inside a Morrisons abattoir. Photo © M. Perfectti via Adobe Stock

Last month, Animal Justice Project released disturbing footage of pigs being struck by paddles inside a Morrisons abattoir. Photo © M. Perfectti via Adobe Stock


An ‘inadequate’ CCTV framework

Ayesha Smart is a barrister at Exchange Chambers and Britain’s youngest-ever ethnic minority Crown Court judge.

In a statement sent to Vegan Food & Living, she said: “Only around 10 percent of slaughterhouse non-compliances are identified either by live or retrospective CCTV viewing.

“This correlates with my experience, that the number of referrals for prosecution or prosecutions for animal abuse hasn’t drastically changed i.e. gone down. 

“Without routine auditing of footage, compliance with animal welfare standards isn’t always taken as seriously.”

Ayesha also described the framework around current CCTV surveillance in slaughterhouses as ‘inadequate’. She added that ‘perpetrators of animal cruelty are not routinely being adequately brought to justice’. 

‘A culture of animal abuse’

Last year, a report co-authored by Animal Equality UK and The Animal Law Foundation analysed footage obtained from covert investigations inside slaughterhouses.

It found a ‘multitude’ of severe animal abuse incidents, despite cameras being in place. This includes violent handling, animals being live-plucked, piglets being thrown into boiling water, and more horrific sights.

Despite this, one-third of cases resulted in no formal action being taken.

“Time and time again, animal cruelty and abuse is often uncovered by NGOs like Animal Justice Project. This forces the Food Standards Agency to watch slaughterhouse CCTV footage in its entirety for that specific time-period,” said Claire Palmer, Founder of Animal Justice Project.

“However even then there is no guarantee action will be taken. We believe this is creating a culture of animal abuse amongst slaughterhouse staff, who know they can essentially do what they like to animals and get away with it.”

How can we end animal abuse for good? Here, we explore whether lab grown meat can end factory farming

Featured image © Jay_Zynism via Getty Images

Written by

Liam Gilliver

Liam is a journalist working for the Mirror, Daily Express, Daily Star and OK! Magazine. He's also the author of We're Worried About Him and has been published in the likes of The Independent, Huffington Post, and Attitude Magazine.

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