More than 100 MPs have signed a parliamentary motion calling for mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses with independent monitoring of footage.
Early Day Motion 153, which was tabled by Labour MP for Easington Grahame Morris in June, has attracted cross-party support and been backed by more than half of all Welsh Assembly Members.
Morris previously tabled Early Day Motion 177, which called for mandatory CCTV and was signed by 131 MPs last year.
The debate over mandatory CCTV has been raging since 2009, when Animal Aid first began filming undercover in slaughterhouses. Since then, the group has released undercover footage showing alleged abuse at nine facilities, some of which has led to prosecutions.
Defra, which rejected mandatory CCTV when it first looked into the issue in 2012, signalled it was ready to reconsider after the Bowood abattoir expose earlier this year.
However, the recent Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC) report on CCTV stopped short of recommending that CCTV should be mandatory in slaughterhouses and a Defra spokesperson said there were no plans to introduce legislation.
He pointed out the Food Standards Agency estimates that over 90% of the cattle, pig, sheep and poultry throughput in Britain is from slaughterhouses that have CCTV in use, suggesting there is no need for regulatory measures on CCTV.
He added the new Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (England) Regulations 2015, coming into force next month, would “improve the protection of animals by maintaining our strict welfare rules in slaughterhouses while allowing for tougher enforcement action”.
Most major supermarkets already insist their slaughterhouse suppliers have CCTV cameras fitted, but there is curently no requirement for the footage to be closely monitored by an independent body, which Animal Aid claims is essential to prevent abuse.
The FSA indicated at a board meeting in May that it was developing an industry-wide protocol on CCTV that would include a requirement for footage to be shared with FSA officials.
The campaign for mandatory CCTV with independent monitoring of footage has attracted widespread public support and been backed by meat hygiene inspectors, slaughterhouse vets, other welfare groups and MPs from across the political spectrum.
“There is no excuse for the savagery we filmed inside slaughterhouses, and yet it went on right under the noses of vets who are stationed there to monitor welfare,” said Animal Aid’s slaughter consultant, Kate Fowler.
“Currently, taxpayers are charged millions of pounds every year for a welfare system that is failing animals. Clearly, things must change. We need a more robust system, and CCTV – if independently monitored – can play an important part in deterring and detecting welfare breaches.”