This news has been a long time coming. Animal welfare activists have been campaigning for CCTV in all UK slaughterhouses since CCTV was invented.
Animal Aid secretly filmed in 13 slaughterhouses between 2009 and 2014 and found evidence of animal cruelty and lawbreaking in 12 of them. Such evidence includes animals being beaten and punched and cigarettes being stubbed out in pigs’ faces. You can find more details if you wish to educate yourself but I don’t really want to dwell on it.
The new environment secretary Michael Gove will be introducing mandatory CCTV in all slaughterhouses in England as part of a focus on animal welfare and environment protection during Brexit. Animal Aid has, of course, welcomed the news, given that they have campaigned for this for so long, but they stressed that the CCTV must be independently monitored and spot checks should be carried out to ensure that the new measure is effective. Little detail has so far been announced but we do know that vets from the FSA will be able to access footage from CCTV used in all areas where animals are handled, kept and killed.
Some abattoirs already have CCTV as a voluntary measure and to comply with requests from supermarkets to ensure compassionate standards are met. Compulsory CCTV should prevent millions of animals suffering such horrifying cruelty behind closed doors as perpetrators of abuse can now be prosecuted.
I have some minor points to make about the ethics.
- Animals are still being murdered so people can eat them.
- Animals still undergo a long journey in cramped conditions, without food or water, so that people can murder them and other people can eat them.
- Animals are still being reared in unpleasant and sometimes cruel conditions, subject to cruel practices, so that people can murder then eat them.
Compulsory CCTV will not prevent abuse and cruelty at the other stages of this long and complicated chain. It will not prevent the murdering for food. It is the absolute barest minimum we can do so that these animals don’t suffer in their final moments.
It feels strangely uncomfortable to be pleased about this. Is this really the best we can do? Is this what it means to have the highest welfare standards in the world? That we should feel satisfied that a long, long campaign for the barest minimum protection of animals has finally been granted (under the true motivation of sticking it to the EU.)
I’ll end this confusing post – confusing because of my conflicting emotions of relief and contempt – with some words from Isobel Hutchinson of Animal Aid:
“Although this development is undoubtedly a huge step forward, we urge the public to remember that even when the law is followed to the letter, slaughter is a brutal and pitiless business that can never be cruelty-free.