The issue of animal welfare in meat production is a vitally important one for consumers, and for the food industry as a whole. Describing its role in protecting animal welfare, The Food Standards Agency states:
“The FSA operates zero tolerance towards animal cruelty. Businesses must have appropriate systems in place to comply with legal requirements and achieve the required standards of animal welfare.” It adds: “The vast majority of slaughterhouses in Britain are fully compliant with animal welfare requirements.” Read the full FSA information on slaughter licensing and animal welfare »
By law, all UK slaughterhouses must meet uniform standards of animal welfare, following standard operating procedures (SOPs) designed to spare animals any avoidable pain or distress. A key function of the FSA is to protect animal welfare at all times, both prior to and during slaughter. Separate SOPs apply to different types of animals, relating to:
- Unloading of animals
- Holding of animals in pens and fields
- Moving and handling animals
- Restraining animals
- Stunning and killing animals
- Religious slaughter
- Animal Welfare Officers’ roles and responsibilities
Individuals carrying out slaughter operations must hold specific certificates of competence and EU regulations state that full responsibility for animal welfare and food safety in slaughterhouses rests with business operators, who must meet legislative requirements for design, layout and equipment.
On 31 August 2016, the Agency published its May survey into slaughterhouses in England and Wales.
Among the main findings, the following information emerged:
- Just under 50% of all red meat slaughterhouses and just over 70% of white meat slaughterhouses used some form of CCTV for animal welfare purposes
- These figures represent a small incremental increase in the use of CCTV for animal welfare purposes
- The agency estimates that in England and Wales, 92% of cattle, 96% of pigs, 88% of sheep and 99% of poultry throughput comes from premises using some form of CCTV.
While there has been an increase in the use of CCTV, it is very small, suggesting that uptake may have reached a plateau.
While business operators are not legally required to install CCTV in slaughterhouses, the Farm Animal Welfare Committee suggests that it can and does have a positive outcome on animal welfare in slaughterhouses. Along with the FSA, installation of CCTV is supported by Defra and the industry in general, with all major retailers specifying use of CCTV in their contracts.