Ministers consider making CCTV mandatory for UK slaughterhouses

Ministers are currently deciding whether to make the installation of CCTV mandatory to monitor welfare in slaughterhouses, according to a paper from the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

The paper, which will be presented to the FSA’s Board meeting on 15 November 2011, discusses the current level of uptake of CCTV for animal welfare monitoring in slaughterhouses and covers some of the issues and benefits of installing CCTV.

It makes it clear that current legislation does not require businesses to install CCTV for this purpose, but states that “Defra Ministers are currently considering their position with regard to mandatory installation of CCTV by businesses and introduction of other measures to improve animal welfare standards in slaughterhouses.” It estimates the cost to the industry of compulsory installation of CCTV to be in the region of £600,000.

Written by FSA director of operations, Andrew Rhodes, the paper is the result of a programme of work carried out by the Agency to establish whether encouraging the installation of CCTV in plants could be a useful tool to protect animal welfare.

It states that “in promoting animal welfare safeguards, the FSA supports the use of CCTV in slaughterhouses as a useful monitoring tool." However, it states that CCTV is only one of a range of safeguards to ensure the highest standards of welfare and raises the question of whether business’ own footage can be used in evidence against them, should a welfare breach occur.

The paper says the Executive is “encouraged” that the uptake of CCTV for animal welfare monitoring has doubled since June 2010, with 19% of red meat slaughterhouses and 29% of white meat slaughterhouses now having CCTV in place to monitor animal welfare, accounting for around 48% of red meat volume and 59% of poultry volume repectively in the period between July 2010 and July 2011.

It attributes this in part to pressure from the major retailers, many of whom now require CCTV monitoring of animals throughout their supply chains.

The FSA Board is not expected to make any policy decisions regarding CCTV until the results of a recent animal welfare survey have been analysed. However, they will be asked to agree a set of CCTV best practice guideliness outlined in the paper.

These are:

  • CCTV should be monitored on a daily basis both by FSA OVs and the business. Where this is not happening, we are reminding OVs and businesses to do this;
  • Daily checks should be undertaken on a regular basis, but at different times, and should be part of the OV’s ongoing checks of business compliance. Similarly, the business’ checks should be part of their own internal verification procedures;
  • Checks should be at a frequency associated with the potential risk of non-compliance for each particular practice undertaken; for example, gas killing of poultry has less potential for adverse practices than group stunning of pigs or lambs;
  • Checks should also be risk based on the known compliance of the business with welfare legislation and recognised best practices;
  • Where monitoring of CCTV footage by FSA regulatory officials indicates potential evidence for enforcement action, that footage should be retained for a sufficient period from the date it was taken to enable proper investigation and, if appropriate, enforcement action to be taken;
  • CCTV footage should be made available to officials in the course of enforcement. CCTV footage should be used for the training of new slaughtermen, and CCTV footage should be used in the training of new OVs and Meat Hygiene Inspectors.

Stephen Rossides, director of the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), has responded by saying that while CCTV could be appropriate in some premises, the main issue to maintain high animal welfare rests in proper training and the responsible behaviour of staff.

He said: “Our view is that meeting the law and maintaining high animal welfare standards is very important and should involve properly trained people. In all plants, proper procedures should be in place to ensure this. CCTV might be an element in this, but in our view it should not be compulsory.

“However, in practise, many, if not most of our members have CCTV in place in stunning and slaughter areas.”

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