In a move to help “reassure consumers that high welfare standards are being effectively enforced”, the legislation will require all abattoirs to have CCTV in all areas where live animals are present, with unrestricted access to footage for Food Standards Agency (FSA) Official Veterinarians.
The legislation was first proposed in August 2017 and included a public consultation which attracted almost 4,000 responses.
Under the proposals, the FSA Official Veterinarians would have unfettered access to the last 90 days of footage to help them monitor and enforce animal welfare standards.
Once passed through UK parliament, the legislation will come into effect from May 2018 and businesses will then have six months to comply with the legislation with the penalty for non-compliance an enforcement notice to the business or prosecution.
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.
“Introducing compulsory CCTV cameras in slaughterhouses is 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 previous reaction to the consultation highlighted 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.”
The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) welcomed the announcement.
“The BMPA supports the mandatory introduction of CCTV in all abattoirs,” said a spokesperson. “Our members have been using it for a number of years and BMPA and AIMS issued a joint statement in 2015 supporting its use as one of many tools available to help FBOs protect animal welfare.
“In spring last year all the industry associations signed up to a Protocol developed by the BMPA and agreed by the FSA to give OVs random daily access to CCTV footage as part of their verification checks. This system has been in place for several months now and works well for both sides.
“We expect that system to form the backbone of how CCTV is used when it becomes mandatory in all abattoirs.”
Heather Hancock, chairman of the Food Standards Agency, also praised the legislation. “I welcome this new legislation being introduced. It will help businesses to improve animal welfare and hygiene standards across the industry. We look forward to working with the industry as CCTV plans are implemented, and to seeing public confidence rise as a result.”
President of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), John Fishwick added:
“Mandatory CCTV in all areas of slaughterhouses will provide an essential tool in fostering a culture of compassion that could help safeguard animal welfare. We commend the Government’s commitment to provide Official Veterinarians with unrestricted access to the footage, which the veterinary profession has long been campaigning for.
“It is vets’ independence and unique qualifications that help ensure the UK will continue to have the highest standards of animal health, welfare and food safety post-Brexit.”