Advocates of slaughterhouse CCTV gain increasing support

Support for compulsory CCTV in slaughterhouses seems to be growing, with a number of industry and government reviews backing the installation of the surveillance equipment in recent days.

MP for Crawley Henry Smith led a debate in Commons on the subject on 3 February, while the Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC) released a report recommending that slaughterhouses install CCTV on the same day. Elsewhere, a Food Standards Agency (FSA) survey, published at the end of January, showed that uptake of CCTV had increased since 2011.

A government e-petition launched by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has also now attracted just shy of 110,000 signatures.

These developments coincide with the release of footage that allegedly shows acts of cruelty from inside Bowood Lamb slaughterhouse in Yorkshire. Smith said of the video: “It shows that the ‘surgically sharp knife’ was often so blunt that the slaughterer had to hack over and over again at the throats of still-conscious animals.”

Speaking in the Commons, he put his case forward for the need for CCTV in slaughterhouses, suggesting that installing and monitoring the equipment would aid animal welfare. He added: “Many farmers I have spoken to are deeply concerned that the welfare they care about, when the animals are on their farm, is discarded in the final moments in the slaughterhouses.”

Attendees at the debate were generally in support of the proposals. Lady Hermon, independent MP for North Down, said: “I strongly support the hon gentleman’s call to make CCTV cameras compulsory in all slaughterhouses, and I hope that would be extended to Northern Ireland.”

The aforementioned FAWC report “recommends that slaughterhouse operators install and utilise CCTV in slaughterhouses in a structured and proportionate way”. FAWC is an expert committee that advises Defra on the welfare of farmed animals.

Its report summarised: “We argue that, as a complement to existing statutory requirements and management practices for the observation and verification of slaughterhouse practices, CCTV offers some real benefits to food business operators [FBOs] and the rest of the food chain.”

George Eustice, parliamentary under-secretary of state for the environment, food and rural affairs, referred to FAWC’s research in the debate in the Commons, highlighting that there were limitations to CCTV: “The report concludes that there are many benefits to CCTV in slaughterhouses, but also sounds a note of caution, stating that CCTV is no panacea, and while it can be a useful tool to complement existing enforcement and management, it cannot replace other management procedures and inspection regimes.”

However Eustice was generally positive on the move. When asked about the costs that would be incurred, he responded that they would be “relatively modest”. The FAWC study said the costs could range from £3,000 to £10,000 per abattoir. Henry Smith suggested it would be less: “The cost of CCTV installation is not prohibitive – it is just a few hundred pounds for the smaller slaughterhouses and £2,000 to £3,000 for the larger ones.”

Commenting on the subject, director of the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) Stephen Rossides said: “Operators should have internal systems in place to ensure proper training of slaughter staff and to monitor stunning and slaughter either constantly or in ways that enable inconspicuous observation of stunning and slaughter at any time. In many premises, CCTV may be an appropriate tool for this purpose, but it should be the FBO’s decision. In practice, most BMPA members already have CCTV installed in the stunning and slaughter area.”

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