Industry should pay for compulsory abattoir CCTV monitoring, report claims

Compulsory CCTV monitoring in abattoirs, funded by industry, is necessary to ensure animal welfare issues are being effectively addressed, according to a report just published which calls for the launch of a pilot scheme. 

The study – CCTV Monitoring in Slaughterhouses – was published on Friday, 19 August by a team of experts, headed by Sheffield Hallam University professor Ian Rotherham.

The report, which was commissioned by pressure group Animal Aid, sets out how an independent system of monitoring might be conducted, what it would cost and how it might be funded.

The group proposes a per-carcase levy system to pay for staff to run through surveillance footage, which they estimate could cost between £150,000 and £370,000, plus employee overheads and support expenses.

Whistle-blowing could be handled by a dedicated member of staff and any reports could continue to be handled by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), the paper suggests. It argues for a compulsory scheme because “voluntary compliance does not achieve complete cessation of all malpractice”.

Summarising its findings, it states: “The clear conclusion is that the current system of welfare monitoring is failing and that compulsory use of CCTV with independent monitoring is the only robust solution.”

A sign of the issue’s growing significance were the 112,285 people who, in 2015, signed a petition on the government’s No10 website calling for mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses with independent monitoring, according to the study. A total of 142 MPs also signed the latest Early Day Motion to the same effect.

Commenting on the report, Professor Rotherham told Meat Trades Journal: “It is clear that the current systems do not work and are not transparent and independent. The public expects animal welfare at slaughter to be of a very high standard and are concerned by evidence of animal abuse.

“There are no valid economic reasons not to have effective systems in place and these need to be independently monitored and validated, and the report reviews and presents how this can be achieved and is cost-effective.”

Animal Aid said the estimated costs involved in running an independent monitoring scheme were ‘far from prohibitive’. It has previously suggested that installation of a four-camera system, costing about £700-£900, would be adequate for smaller slaughterhouses.

The report’s publication comes against a background of undercover investigations of English slaughterhouses by Animal Aid, which produced filmed evidence of animals suffering severe and routine abuse.

Footage showed workers burning pigs with cigarettes and punching, kicking and beating animals around the face.

Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) minister George Eustice has already stated that the cost of installing cameras in slaughterhouses is ‘relatively modest’.

The Rotherham report recommends that a formulating body (governmental, academic, animal welfare or other) establishes a monitoring committee to run such a scheme, which needs to be ‘transparent, effective and, for credibility, to be independent from interference by both government and industry’. Its members would be drawn from a range of stakeholders, and would appoint staff who would be trained and supported in their viewing of footage.

It recommends slaughterhouse anonymity to protect the workers and to ensure there is no bias caused by employees knowing they are watching footage from a slaughterhouse with a poor welfare record. It also recommends close liaison with the FSA, the body currently charged with regulating welfare at slaughter.

“The case has been decisively made that the current regulatory system is failing animals, and that CCTV – if monitored properly – could deter and detect crimes against vulnerable animals,” said Animal Aid’s head of campaigns Isobel Hutchinson. “With the publication of this report, the suggestion that this wayward industry can’t afford CCTV monitoring has been comprehensively debunked.

“In reality, it just doesn’t want effective monitoring and - with Animal Aid having found nine out of 10 randomly chosen slaughterhouses breaking welfare laws – it’s clear why. But the government must show its commitment to upholding these laws. It must make cameras compulsory, and ensure they are independently monitored. Inaction is no longer an option.”

Welfare at slaughter is a devolved issue, so any decision taken at Westminster on CCTV would affect slaughterhouses in England only.

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