CCTV will be mandatory in all slaughterhouses in England under new plans unveiled by the Government in a move hailed by animal welfare advocates.
Under the new plans, the footage will be viewed by the Food Standard Agency’s official vets, who monitor and enforce animal welfare standards in slaughterhouses.
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.”
CIWF said they are “delighted” at Defra’s announcement and cited the many undercover operations showing “appalling acts of cruelty and the extreme suffering” that can take place behind closed doors as evidence that CCTV is needed.
Emma Slawinski, CIWF’s director of campaigns, said:
“We are absolutely thrilled that Defra has recognised the need for CCTV within slaughterhouses.
“Sadly, all too often undercover investigations show animals being subjected to abuse and cruel treatment in slaughterhouses – in breach of legislation and compassionate practice.
“There is currently no effective way of holding the perpetrators to account for their appalling actions.
“Millions of animals each year are at risk of suffering behind the closed doors of slaughterhouses.
“Up until now CCTV has been a voluntary decision, however mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses will provide the crucial transparency to ensure that legal protections are not being flouted.”
The Government’s move follows the French Parliament’s vote earlier this year to install cameras in all abattoirs following a series of animal slaughter scandals.
Defra said that breaches of animal welfare would result in a welfare enforcement notice, the suspending or revoking of staff’s licences or a referral for a criminal investigation.
Animal Aid, which has been one of the most prominent groups campaigning for CCTV in slaughterhouses, said the decision will help to protect vulnerable animals from the “gratuitous abuse” witnessed in their undercover investigations.
However, the group further urged the government to implement independent monitoring of the footage and spot-checks to ensure no abuse was missed.
Isobel Hutchinson, Animal Aid director, said:
“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.”
The move was also hailed by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) as a “huge win” for animal welfare.
Gudrun Ravetz, the BVA’s president, said: “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, which BVA has been calling for.”
Defra is running a consultation on CCTV in slaughterhouses as well as a consultation on the Code of Practice for chickens.
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.
Keith Taylor MEP, the Green Party’s animals spokesperson, said Friday’s announcement was a “welcome step, but long, long overdue”.
Taylor said: “The devil is in the detail, of which there is little at the moment.
“To help prevent the cruellest and most pitiless treatment of UK farm animals, as a minimum, the Government needs to ensure cameras are placed in any area of a slaughterhouse where animals are handled, held and killed.”