The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has launched a consultation on implementing mandatory CCTV in all slaughterhouses in the country.
Under the proposals, CCTV would be mandatory in all areas of approved slaughterhouses in England where live animals are present, including where they are unloaded, kept, handled, stunned and killed with a view to Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) Official Veterinarians (OVs) having unrestricted access to the footage to monitor and enforce animal welfare standards in the slaughterhouse.
The consultation on the issue is open for six weeks, with submissions being accepted here.
High food production standards
Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “We have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and the actions I am setting out today will reinforce our status as a global leader.
“As we prepare to leave the EU, these measures provide a further demonstration to consumers around the world that our food is produced to the very highest standards.”
Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), said: “There is much thought that needs to go into how CCTV is utilised to maximise the benefits. It is important that training and proper and correct protocols are put in place. Simply installing CCTV in itself is not a solution in its own right if it is not used correctly. The industry has been working with the FSA to establish the best way to maximise the benefits and we will continue to do so, knowing that this will give the consumer greater confidence in our produce.”
Norman Bagley, policy director of the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers, said: "We strongly support the use of CCTV in abattoirs as a valuable tool for management and training, which is already used by the great majority of abattoirs. However, we believe that the presence of officials in person in areas where live animals are handled confers immeasurably more benefit than officials remotely monitoring from offices elsewhere. It is a risk that FSA officials could be diverted from positive input on welfare by CCTV.
“In addition, we have some concerns about the rights of abattoir staff. We do not believe they deserve to be subjected to constant scrutiny without their consent when other workers, for example in hospitals and care homes, are not subject to continuous CCTV monitoring by prosecuting authorities. We believe it is essential to ensure that abattoir workers are treated no differently from workers in other industries and all other citizens.”
CCTV an ‘essential tool’
Heather Hancock, chairman of the FSA, added: “The Food Standards Agency takes a zero-tolerance approach to any breaches of animal welfare standards in slaughterhouses. Last year, we concluded that it was time to make CCTV compulsory in slaughterhouses, progress on voluntary adoption having plateaued.
“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.”
The news was welcomed by the British Veterinary Association president Gudrun Ravetz. “Mandatory CCTV in all areas of slaughterhouses will provide an essential tool in fostering a culture of compassion that could help safeguard animal welfare and we are particularly pleased to see a commitment to Official Veterinarians having unrestricted access to footage. Vets’ independence and unique qualifications help ensure the UK will continue to have the highest standards of animal health, welfare and food safety.
“We recognise that the cost of installing CCTV may be a burden for some very small abattoirs, but it is important that the animals we farm for food have both a good life and a humane death – and CCTV has a key role to play in ensuring these requirements are met.”
Defra has also announced plans to update its meat chicken welfare code to reflect the most up-to-date best practice on English poultry farms. Welfare codes on laying hens, pigs, dogs, cats and horses are expected to be updated over the next year. Submissions to the consultation on the ‘Code of Practice for the Welfare of Meat Chickens and Meat Breeding Chickens’ runs for eight weeks from today and can be found here.