The proposals will require every slaughterhouse in England to introduce CCTV in in all areas where live animals are present. Official vets would be allowed unrestricted access to the film in a bid to police welfare standards and reassure consumers that standards are being enforced.
The move would cement Britain’s reputation as a world leader in animal welfare standards, said Lord Gardiner, parliamentary under secretary of state for rural affairs and biosecurity.
“The whole purpose of what we want to do on a range of issues on animal welfare is to show that Britain is a world leader; that for any British produce – sold either in this country or abroad – consumers know they are consuming the best quality food … produced to the highest welfare standards,” Gardiner told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“So, I think it is a win for industry and for a win for the consumer.”
But British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) chief executive Nick Allen said: ‘‘Many abattoirs have had CCTV in place for some time now and regard it as the norm.”
‘CCTV in place for some time’
The BMPA boss acknowledged CCTV in abattoirs helped to strengthen consumers’ confidence in the abattoir sector.
It was important to plan how CCTV would be used, together with training and proper protocols, he added. “Simply installing CCTV in itself is not a solution, in its own right, if it is not used correctly.”
British Veterinary Association president Gudrun Ravetz said mandatory CCTV in all areas of slaughterhouses “will provide an essential tool in fostering a culture of compassion”.
She added that vets’ independence and qualifications will help to ensure the UK continues to maintain the highest standards of animal health, welfare and food safety.
The Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS) welcomed the use of CCTV in abattoirs but feared the possible infringement of workers’ rights. Read more in the box below.
Food Standards Agency (FSA) chairman Heather Hancock said the agency took “a zero tolerance approach to any breaches of animal welfare standards in slaughterhouses”.
Last year, the FSA concluded progress on voluntary adoption of CCTV in slaughterhouses had plateaued and it was time to make their use compulsory.
“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,” said Hancock.
The government has also revealed plans to raise standards for farm animals and domestic pets by modernising statutory animal welfare codes to reflect enhancements in medicines, technology and the latest research and advice from vets. The updated codes, which will become law, will apply first to chickens bred for meat.
Consultations on both proposals will be accessible online from today (August 11).
“AIMS is the trade association which represents the majority of abattoirs. 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.”