Pressing for CCTV in Slaughterhouses

Neil intervened on the Animal Welfare Minister, George Eustice, in a Parliamentary debate to call for compulsory cameras for the slaughter of horses. This measure would help to improve animal welfare and uncover examples of abuse.

Neil: I know that the Minister is very keen on animal welfare and does a great deal to promote it. I just wonder why it is not possible to have compulsory cameras for the slaughter of horses, both in the slaughterhouse itself and in the lairage, to ensure that the horses are handled properly all the way through. I feel that that is something that we could do, and it would not be so difficult to make it compulsory.

George Eustice (Animal Welfare Minister): I want to talk about the meat of this debate, which is CCTV. As many hon. Members have said today, CCTV can and does play a useful role. Last year, the Farm Animal Welfare Committee published an interesting report that detailed the positive benefits of CCTV to slaughterhouse operators and those monitoring and verifying compliance with welfare standards. The benefits go much wider than any deterrent effect, and include, for instance, more accurate ante-mortem inspection in the lairage—for example, sheep often mask lameness if stressed when a stockman or vet is present, but behave normally under remote observation.

Another benefit is that CCTV can be a valuable training tool for operatives to encourage sensitive and sympathetic behaviour towards animals, and it can enable the spotting of any bad practices that could result in incidents or near misses. It can also allow the observation of activities in small or confined spaces that it would otherwise be difficult for the official veterinarian to observe. As the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals briefing for the debate also illustrates, it can be of use to operators and audit schemes in providing assurance that good practice and legal requirements are followed.

The Government understand the desire for the use of CCTV in all slaughterhouses, although we are yet to be convinced that it should be a mandatory requirement. I do, though, understand the calls for the Government to go further by introducing legislation to require slaughterhouses to have CCTV installed, and that official veterinarians should have unfettered access to CCTV footage. As I have made clear previously, the Government have never ruled out further action, and we keep the matter under review. I shall ensure that my noble Friend Lord Gardiner, who now has responsibility for the relevant part of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs portfolio, is made aware of the points made today. We will, of course, consider them all carefully.

You can read the full debate at this link.