However, the group warned that it should not be used as a substitute for direct oversight by management or veterinarians (read the opinion here).
FAWC is an expert committee of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
Calls for mandatory CCTV
The use of CCTV and calls for it to become mandatory has been largely driven by the need to address concern that animal abuse is taking place without detection.
“CCTV offers a range of benefits in slaughterhouses for the observation and recording of real-time processes, for the recording of individual incidents, for contributing information to the auditing of animal welfare, for aiding the verification of slaughterhouse compliance with legislative and assurance or certification requirements and for the training of slaughterhouse staff,” said FAWC.
It could increase public trust that processes of animal killing are carried out properly and to identify animal welfare issues or incidents that might be missed by physical observation.
Growth in the use of CCTV is being strongly driven by Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and supported by retailers and farm assurance schemes, many of which are increasingly requiring CCTV in the slaughterhouse.
Most major food retailers (Asda, the Co-operative, Iceland, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Lidl and Waitrose) now insist upon CCTV in supply chain slaughterhouses.
The UK government has no legal powers to impose compulsory CCTV in slaughterhouses.
During the 2013 FSA Animal Welfare Survey in Great Britain 43% of red meat slaughterhouses and 55% of white meat slaughterhouses had some form of CCTV for animal welfare purposes.
Does CCTV mean welfare compliance?
The committee said there is no evidence to suggest that CCTV in slaughterhouses is an active contributor to higher levels of welfare compliance.
“There are financial costs associated with the installation and the running of CCTV within slaughterhouses, even for plants that are already fully compliant with animal welfare requirements.
“Data protection and the security of the footage is another challenge for FBOs, particularly if monitoring of the footage is done off-site.”
It should not be seen as a replacement for conventional monitoring, verification, auditing and inspection regimes, said FAWC.
“We believe that behavioural change is more likely to occur with good training and motivation, or the physical presence of the OV or FBO supervisor who are able to respond immediately to incidences and situations involving animal health and welfare.
“On-site direct inspection was widely held in consultation responses to be more effective than CCTV in determining compliance and identifiying potential or actual areas of animal welfare concern. As inspectors and staff responsible for supervision and verification cannot be present in all live animal areas at all times, CCTV could be used by the FBO, AWO and OV for supplementary assessment.”
Animal Aid video
The opinion comes as Animal Aid revealed video from inside Bowood Slaughterhouse in Yorkshire, UK that appeared to show mistreatment of animals.
The animal rights group, which gave evidence to the FAWC opinion, took undercover footage at the site for three days in December. (WARNING: the video contains some disturbing images).
It said the footage shows sheep kicked; smashed into solid objects headfirst, a worker standing on the neck of a conscious sheep, then bouncing up and down and animals being frightened and taunted by workers waving knives, smacking them on the head and shouting.
The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) released a statement on the footage.
“The Food Standards Agency takes animal welfare at abattoirs very seriously which is why we immediately suspended the licences of the slaughtermen involved.
“There is no excuse for treating animals in the way shown on the video and we are therefore investigating the footage with a view to prosecution.
“We are also continuing to investigate all the circumstances around the incident to ensure proper safeguards are introduced to stop this happening in the future.”