Undercover investigations by Animal Aid have revealed widespread animal welfare abuses in slaughterhouses across the UK (1) There’s no reason to believe that the situation in Scotland is any different. Indeed, between 2015 and 2017, over 700 animal welfare breaches were logged by the government watchdog Food Standards Scotland (2).
OneKind are calling for the introduction of mandatory CCTV cameras in abattoirs so abuses can be deterred or detected and reported to an independent body. It’s no panacea, but it could make a big difference, providing a safeguard for both animals and staff in slaughterhouses. You can sign our petition to the Scottish Government asking that this be introduced here. Many animal welfare groups around the world are making similar calls, and two countries in particular have made progress.
Horrific cruelty was uncovered in a number of slaughterhouse in Israel by undercover activists, including animals being beaten, electrocuted and slaughtered while fully conscious (3). These revelations led to the closure of a poultry slaughterhouse guilty of repeated animal welfare abuses (4). Inspectors appointed by the slaughterhouse itself had failed to detect or report these incidents, demonstrating the need for CCTV cameras and independent monitoring.
In 2015, the Israeli government responded and made the installation of CCTV cameras in all slaughterhouses mandatory. The CCTV cameras are meant to send a live feed to a control room in the Ministry of Agriculture where they will be monitored for abuses (5).
In 2017, France became the first country in the EU to legislate for mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses, when the parliament voted in favour of making installation of cameras compulsory from 2018.
This followed the emergence of footage filmed by activists revealing widespread animal welfare abuses in French abattoirs. The footage showed animals being beaten and workers failing to properly stun animals before slaughter. If passed by the French Senate, the bill will require CCTV to be present in all areas of slaughterhouses where animals are handled including where they are housed, transported, stunned and killed. Footage will be held for one month and only viewable by veterinarians and animal welfare inspectors (6). This means that slaughterhouse directors will not have access to the footage, increasing the likelihood of proper monitoring and reporting of abuses.
Also on the progressives list is the state government of Uttar Pradesh in India. They made CCTV cameras mandatory in all slaughterhouses in 2012 (7).
So what about the UK?
Animal welfare is a devolved policy area, so its up to the national Governments to decide whether to make CCTV mandatory and if so how. So far, none have done so and instead they rely on the voluntary approach. Already, a number of major supermarkets in the UK including Tesco, the Co-op, Waitrose and Marks and Spencer have committed to dealing only with slaughterhouses that have independently monitored CCTV (8). However, to ensure that this monitoring is thorough and actually independent, legislation is necessary to enforce it. Furthermore, there are no guarantees that the whole slaughterhouse is monitored – it might must have a camera at the entrance gate!
What scope is there for progress?
The Conservatives made a manifesto commitment to CCTV in slaughterhouses in England, but this was not replicated in the Scottish manifesto. The SNP party policy is supportive of mandatory CCTV after a resolution was passed at conference last year.