meat pigs abattoir

CCTV recording will become mandatory in all English slaughterhouses next year, following an “extremely positive reaction from industry, welfare groups and the public” to the proposals, environment secretary Michael Gove has confirmed.

The government would introduce legislation in the new year, following a consultation launched in August, Defra said, with the new rules expected to come into force in the spring. More than 99% of the consultation’s near 4,000 respondents were supportive of the plans.

Under the new regulations, all slaughterhouses would be required to comply following an adjustment period of up to six months - with CCTV required in every slaughterhouse where live animals are present - while official veterinarians will be given unrestricted access to footage in order to “reassure consumers that high welfare standards are being effectively enforced”.

Defra said the government agreed with the overwhelming proportion of respondents in favour of mandatory CCTV to protect animal welfare in slaughterhouses. The proposals would also give FSA vets unfettered access to the last 90 days of footage to help them monitor and enforce animal welfare standards.

If breaches are found, a slaughterhouse can be given a welfare enforcement notice, have its staff’s licences suspended or revoked, or be referred for a criminal investigation.

However, there are no plans to introduce mandatory CCTV further down the supply chain to cutting plants under the proposals, despite the recent scandal surrounding alleged food safety breaches at a 2 Sisters Food Group plant in West Bromwich.

“We have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and want to cement our status as a global leader by continuing to raise the bar,” Gove said.

“The reaction to this consultation highlights the strength of feeling among the public that all animals should be treated with the utmost respect at all stages of life and be subject to the highest possible welfare standards,” he added.

High standards

“These strong measures also provide a further demonstration to consumers around the world that as we leave the EU we continue to produce our food to the very highest standards.”

Mandatory installation of CCTV was a “vital tool to ensure high standards of animal health, welfare and food safety in all slaughterhouses” said British Veterinary Association president Gudrun Ravetz.

“Official veterinarians carry out an essential role in slaughterhouses by independently assessing and reporting breaches of animal welfare, and unrestricted access to CCTV footage will allow them to carry out this role even more effectively,” she added.

“We have been campaigning for these measures for a number of years and it is reassuring to see such a high level of support for their implementation from industry and the public.”

The move was welcomed by FSA chairman Heather Hancock. “Last year, the FSA board concluded that, without mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses, we would see minimal further progress in businesses improving animal welfare or complying with official controls to protect public health,” she said.

“We look forward to working with the industry as CCTV plans are implemented, and to seeing public confidence rise as a result.”

News of the CCTV ban follows an announcement by Michael Gove last week that the government would support a total ban on the use of bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides on outdoor crops.

Defra has said it also plans to consult on a new and independent statutory body to advise and challenge government and potentially other public bodies on environmental legislation after Brexit.