Ministers in England, Scotland and Wales will consider installing mandatory CCTV cameras in abattoirs next week, when the Food Standards Agency submits an open board report. Alex Blackburne has the rather distressing facts.
In Britain, over 900 million animals are killed in our slaughterhouses each year, equating to nearly 2.5 million a day, over 100,000 an hour, and nearly 2,000 a minute. Although those figures firmly cement our place as one of the world’s biggest producers of meat, the scale of production, and ultimately, death, is quite frankly, scary.
Since 2009, campaign group Animal Aid have secretly filmed inside nine abattoirs across Britain, and their findings do nothing but add to the horror.
Of those nine, eight of them broke animal welfare laws – a massive 89%. This included animals being punched, kicked, goaded, beaten, dragged by their ears and tails and burnt with cigarettes, as well as more gruesome conduct when it came to actually culling them.
Animal Aid have video evidence of the misconduct – it’s a difficult watch – but to date, nobody involved has been prosecuted – mainly because the footage was obtained unlawfully.
Kate Fowler, head of campaigns at Animal Aid, explained why the authorities hadn’t picked up on any wrongdoing in slaughterhouses before their investigations.
“The perpetrators of these acts of violence know better than to commit them in front of the attending vets”, Fowler said.
“And this is where the current regulatory system fails so spectacularly. Vets simply do not know what is going on.”
The Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will be presented with an open board report next week, from the Food Standards Agency (FSA), suggesting the compulsory installation of CCTV cameras in slaughterhouses.
The report “discusses the current level of uptake of CCTV for animal welfare monitoring in slaughterhouses” and “covers the issues and benefits of installation of CCTV.”
Companies with larger slaughterhouses, including supermarkets Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco, all require observation methods.
Even without mandatory CCTV, the FSA are currently working to get the slaughter industry to set up cameras voluntarily. It claims that installing the cameras would cost the whole sector just £600,000 – that’s for the whole of England, Scotland and Wales.
Justin Kerswell, campaigns manager at animal rights group, Viva!, seconded Animal Aid’s campaign in favour of the compulsory CCTV systems, but claimed that the FSA’s current stance won’t do.
“The FSA’s position of backing only voluntary installation of CCTV is not good enough. It gives no incentive for animal abusers to sign up – and indeed essentially gives them a get out of jail free card.
“Thankfully, ministers appear to be using more robust language. Mandatory installation of CCTV in British slaughterhouses is a must.”
Fowler supported Kerswell’s calls for action, stating the cameras could have a significant and positive impact on animal welfare.
“Properly-monitored CCTV can play an important part in ending the wide-scale cruelties we have uncovered.”
“Ministers must introduce this simple and practical measure, and [they] must do it sooner rather than later.”
Defra will be presented with the FSA’s report on Tuesday November 15th.
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Picture source: Benjamin Thompson