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The UK Government has announced that CCTV will be introduced in all English slaughterhouses in 2018, in a move some vegan campaigners have welcomed – but would like to see go further.
According to Environment Secretary Michael Gove, the plans will ‘reassure consumers that high welfare standards are being effectively enforced’.
The legislation, which has generally met with a positive reaction from industry, welfare groups and the public, is delivering on a manifesto pledge.
The manifesto outlined that CCTV should be required in every slaughterhouse in England in all areas where live animals are present, with unrestricted access to footage for Official Veterinarians [OVs].
The proposals will also give the Food Standards Agency [FSA] and OVs unfettered access to the last 90 days of footage to ‘help them monitor and enforce animal welfare standards’.
The Government launched a consultation around the proposals in August seeking views on mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses for animal welfare purposes.
Around 3870 people responded – more than 99 percent were supportive of the plans.
Folowing the consultation, legislation will be introduced in the New Year, coming into force in the Spring.
All slaughterhouses will be required to comply following an adjustment period of up to six months.
While launching the plans, Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “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.
“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.
“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.”
Some welfare bodies have praised the move.
The RSPCA’s Head of Public Affairs, David Bowles, said: “This is a very welcome and crucial step towards introducing higher welfare right across the food chain.
“We applaud the Secretary of State for his steadfast and focused commitment to ensuring the highest possible animal welfare standards in the UK once we have left the EU.
“The RSPCA looks forward to seeing the details of the proposal as issues such as where the cameras will be located, footage quality and storage, and who can have access to it are essential to making the legislation meaningful.”
While some vegan organizations have welcomed the plans, they feel the measures don’t go far enough.
Toni Shephard, Executive Director (UK) of leading animal organization Animal Equality, told PBN: “We welcome all measures to try and reduce the suffering of farmed animals, both on intensive farms and at the slaughterhouse, and hope this will prevent the routine abuse of terrified animals in abattoirs.
“However, it is a shame that there are no plans to set up an independent body charged with monitoring the footage and performing spot checks as this oversight would make the programme much more effective.
“Ultimately consumers have the power to end suffering in slaughterhouses by choosing plant-based foods.”
Plant Based News also spoke to Animal Aid – a Tonbridge-based group which has long campaigned against abuse in slaughterhouses.
A spokesperson told PBN: “It is certainly positive that this crucial measure is finally going to be put in place.
“Whilst it is good news that slaughterhouse vets will have unrestricted access to the footage, a proper system of independent monitoring is urgently needed. We believe that the footage should be routinely spot-checked by autonomous experts, which would help to prevent the kind of sickening abuse that we have repeatedly filmed.
“It is also vital to remember that there is no such thing as cruelty-free slaughter.
“Even when no laws are broken, slaughter is a stressful, brutal and violent process. No animal wants to die, and there is simply no need to rear and kill animals for food.
“Since we can be happy and healthy on a completely animal-free diet, we urge anyone who cares about animals to go vegan.”
‘Sense of security’
One source told PBN that there is not unequivocal support across Parliament for the measures.
The source, who works in campaigning, said some politicians have questioned the measures, saying the practicalities of actually monitoring footage means the scheme may not be as effective in preventing animal cruelty as people think.
He added: “There are concerns people could get a ‘false sense of security’ over how much these CCTV cameras could actually achieve.
“The only way to ensure less cruelty is to eat fewer animals and animal products.”