CCTV will be compulsory in all English slaughterhouses under plans revealed by environment secretary Michael Gove today (11 August).

Mr Gove said the measures he is setting out “will reinforce our status as a global leader” in animal welfare.

Under the new plans, footage would be available to the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) official vets, who monitor and enforce animal welfare standards in slaughterhouses.

A six-week consultation on the proposals has started and the plans are likely to go before parliament early next year.

British Veterinary Association president Gudrun Ravetz welcomed the plans, in particular the commitment to official FSA vets having unrestricted access to footage.

The government has also confirmed it is updating the welfare codes for chickens, pigs, dogs, cats and horses.

These codes are underpinned by law and set out what is needed for animals to have good quality of life. They are being updated over the next year to incorporate developments in medicines, technology and the latest research and advice from vets.

“We have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and the actions I am setting out today will reinforce our status as a global leader,” said Mr Gove.

“As we prepare to leave the EU, these measures provide a further demonstration to consumers around the world that our food is produced to the very highest standards.”

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If breaches of the FSA’s strict processes to ensure animal welfare is protected, a slaughterhouse can be given a welfare enforcement notice; have staff licences suspended or revoked and can be referred for a criminal investigation.

FSA chairman Heather Hancock added the association has a “zero tolerance approach” to any breaches of animal welfare standards in slaughterhouses.

“Last year, we concluded that it was time to make CCTV compulsory in slaughterhouses, progress on voluntary adoption [of cameras] having plateaued,” she said.

“I and the board of the FSA warmly welcome Defra’s consultation about making CCTV mandatory.

“We look forward to the introduction of a comprehensive requirement for using, accessing and retaining footage from CCTV in abattoirs.

“We see CCTV as an invaluable management tool for business owners to help with compliance with official controls and to improve animal welfare standards across the industry.”

World Horse Welfare has long been been pushing for mandatory CCTV in all equine UK slaughterhouses and in October last year the charity ramped up its campaigning, securing parliamentary debates on the issue.

For more on this story, don’t miss next week’s Horse & Hound — out Thursday, 17 August