FSA to make unannounced abattoir visits

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has begun the process of making unannounced visits to slaughterhouses in Great Britain, following the recent video footage from Bowood Lamb and S Bagshaw and Sons abattoirs.

Food and farming minister George Eustice made the announcement during yesterday’s debate on non-stun slaughter at Westminster Hall, after an e-petition from the British Veterinary Association, calling for the practice to be banned, gained the required 100,000 signatures.

Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, raised the point that it may also be beneficial to improve standards in slaughterhouses, as "even things that are technically legal often involve high levels of animal cruelty", and to look at options such as making CCTV mandatory  – something which proved popular in the Hall.

Philip Hollobone, Conservative MP for Kettering, who led the debate said he believed that "having CCTV in slaughterhouses would seem to be a helpful weapon against such abuse", as recently highlighted in the video footage from the aforementioned abattoirs.

In response to this, Eustice told MPs: "The Food Standards Agency has begun a series of unannounced inspections of GB slaughterhouses and, by the end of March, all approved slaughterhouses will have been subject to an unannounced inspection."

The debate:

Alongside discussions about improving slaughterhouse standards, the topics of labelling and post-cut stunning were also raised during the debate.

Many MPs called for the labelling of meat products to enable consumers to make the choice as to whether to buy meat that was either stunned, halal - stunned or un-stunned, or kosher, however there was some disagreement about where the level of detail required.

The proposal for an outright ban on non-stun slaughter appeared to be widely dismissed, however post-cut stunning, a practice used in other EU countries, was an option that many MPs felt deserved greater investigation.

John Blackwell, president, British Veterinary Association, told Meat Trades Journal: "There are clearly very strongly held views on this important animal welfare issue. We are pleased that so much public and political attention is being given to such an important animal welfare issue that affects millions of animals every year."

Commenting on the rival e-petition, set up earlier this month, in support of non-stun slaughter, Blackwell added: "Mohammed Amin’s e-petition talks of ‘minimising pain when slaughtering’ and the scientific evidence shows that stunning before slaughter does exactly that. That is why we are campaigning for all animals to be stunned before slaughter.

"We also agree that mis-stunning is unacceptable. We continue to campaign for, and work towards, improvements in animal welfare measures inside all abattoirs, and BVA is actively calling for the implementation of the delayed  welfare at slaughter regulations Welfare of Animals at Time of Killing (England) Regulations (WATOK) in England, as they have been in the rest of the UK."

For more on the debate see the latest issue of Meat Trades Journal, out on 27 February.

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