CCTV recording will become mandatory in all slaughterhouses in England next year as the government seeks to deliver on its manifesto commitment to tighten up on animal welfare.
Defra secretary Michael Gove said the reaction from the industry, welfare groups and the public to a consultation launched in August had been “extremely positive”.
Of almost 4,000 respondents, more than 99% were supportive of the plans.
As such, legislation will be introduced in the new year, coming into force in the spring, requiring the installation of CCTV in all areas where live animals are present.
All slaughterhouses will be required to comply following an adjustment period of up to six months.
Mr 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.
“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.”
The move will give the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) official veterinarians 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.
British Veterinary Association senior vice-president Gudrun Ravetz welcomed the move. “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.”
But the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS) has reservations.
“We support the use of CCTV in slaughterhouses, but the devil will be in the detail,” said policy director Norman Bagley. “We believe a practical solution would be to provide FSA vets unrestricted access to real-time footage.”
He says allowing the FSA to review months of recordings of staff who have not consented to being filmed and initiate retrospective prosecutions is “unprecedented”.
“The presence of CCTV will potentially make it more difficult to retain staff, and we anticipate it may be more difficult to recruit new staff to work in these areas.”