CCTV recording will become mandatory in all slaughterhouses across the country next year, Environment Secretary Michael Gove has confirmed, following almost unanimous support from industry, welfare groups and the public.
Under legislation to be introduced in the new year CCTV will be required in all areas of slaughterhouses where live animals are present and official veterinarians will have unrestricted access to the footage.
The move is motivated by a desire to reassure consumers that high welfare standards are being enforced and following a consultation launched in August, almost 4,000 respondents, more than 99 percent, supported the plans, the Government said.
Mr Gove added: “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.”
The law change will come into force in spring. All slaughterhouses will have to comply following an allowed adjustment period of up to six months.
British Veterinary Association senior vice president Gudrun Ravetz said mandatory installation of CCTV was a “vital tool” for ensuring high standards of animal health, welfare and food safety in slaughterhouses.
“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.”
Heather Hancock, chairman of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), said: “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.
“We look forward to working with the industry as CCTV plans are implemented, and to seeing public confidence rise as a result.”
RSPCA 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.
“We also believe there are further ways to improve the slaughter of farm animals once the UK exits the EU, such as prohibiting electrical waterbath stunning for poultry and prohibiting slaughter without stunning.”