Animal Aid's campaign for mandatory CCTV and independent monitoring in all UK slaughterhouses. Helping vets to see what happens in the stunning and slaughter areas when they cannot be present.

* How many slaughterhouses already have CCTV?

According to the Food Standards Agency around 49 per cent of red meat slaughterhouses and 70 per cent of white meat slaughterhouses have some form of CCTV, although not necessarily throughout the slaughterhouse, and this figure for voluntary take-up has now plateaued.

Four of the slaughterhouses Animal Aid filmed – Cheale Meats, Bowood Lamb, N Bramall & Son and Malik Food Group – had CCTV but the lawbreaking we filmed at each was not prevented by the slaughterhouse operator or the regulators. This is why we are insisting that the footage must be properly monitored by an independent body that has welfare as its main priority.

* CCTV is intrusive and expensive, why is it needed when the government, at considerable expense, already has vets in every slaughterhouse who monitor animal welfare?

The installation of CCTV is not expensive. Defra Minister George Eustice in February 2015 described the costs as ‘relatively modest’ and said ‘we do not think the cost of the equipment is prohibitive’.

The cost of monitoring CCTV will depend on how much footage is checked and by whom but an independent report by Professor Ian Rotherham of Sheffield Hallam University (published in August 2016) found that an independent CCTV-monitoring system would cost up to £370,000 a year for slaughterhouses in England.

Taxpayers are currently paying millions of pounds every year for a monitoring system that does not protect animals from vicious abuse. The government-appointed vets did not pick up on any of the abuses Animal Aid detected with our cameras, so our system – one of monitoring and enforcement – works better than the government’s system. We believe that costs should be determined and funds reallocated so that we get a system that works.

* How is anyone going to watch all that footage?

We don’t expect anyone to watch all the footage. That would be impossible! Vets – and other independent parties – will be able to request specific or random sections of footage and view it at a convenient time, as well as being able to watch it streamed live from their desktop or mobile devices. This means that, should there be a problem, a worker can discreetly suggest the vet looks at the footage of a certain date without making an official complaint against a colleague. It will also ensure that basic procedures are lawful. In seven of the thirteen slaughterhouses we filmed, the basic stunning / slaughter process was not carried out properly – with virtually all animals being killed illegally or in contravention of government guidelines. Even a brief look at the footage would have revealed this in a moment, and could have prevented untold additional suffering.

* Why should slaughter workers, as distinct from any other group, be filmed at their work as though they are common criminals?

Many people are filmed at work – those who work in hotels, shops and restaurants are routinely filmed, for example. But killing animals full-time is not a job like any other. There is the real prospect of desensitisation, and we have evidence of widespread and routine illegal cruelty. If these workers were making widgets, it wouldn’t matter so much if they threw them around and stamped on them, but it matters very much when they are dealing with living – and often very frightened – animals. If our investigations had shown that most slaughterhouses were in full compliance with the law, we would not be calling for CCTV. As it is, we need to do more to ensure that the gratuitous abuse of animals is stopped. Besides, many slaughterhouses already have CCTV – and the supermarkets tell us that they had no resistance from the slaughterhouses when they requested cameras be installed.

* Where is the evidence that CCTV will work?

The evidence is in Animal Aid’s investigations. Our cameras were essentially CCTV cameras and they were independently monitored by Animal Aid. Without our cameras being in place, none of the thousands of mis-stuns and breaches of the law would have come to light.

Now compare what we found with the official reports. In 2009, we filmed inside four slaughterhouses over a total period of 13 days.

• JV Richards: 14.6 per cent of sheep were stunned more than once
• AC Hopkins: 12.2 per cent of sheep and 99.6 per cent of pigs were stunned more than once
• Pickstock: 2.5 per cent of cows were stunned more than once
• Tom Lang Ltd: we filmed several sheep being ‘stunned’ across the body

But, in this same year, government vets reported just 6 cases of mis-stunning cows, 5 of pigs, and 5 of sheep across the entire country.

A similar discrepancy applies to official mis-stun figures for 2010 and 2011.

It is clear that the vets have no idea what is happening inside the stunning and slaughter areas and that they are massively under-reporting mis-stuns. Only Animal Aid’s cameras revealed the true scale of illegality and poor practice. This is why they need CCTV.

* There is no point pretending slaughter isn’t traumatic and unpleasant. The public knows this and accepts it (if they eat meat). Isn’t this campaign simply an attack on a legal, publicly supported industry?

Slaughter is a horrific process and we would rather people chose not to eat any animal products at all, as this is the best way to end the suffering. We find it distressing (and totally unnecessary) that a billion animals are killed for food in this country every year. But to batter, kick, burn, throw and drag animals around the slaughterhouse adds to their suffering. We make no secret of the fact that we promote an animal-free diet, but people are at liberty to choose what they eat. The industry, however, does keep secret what goes on behind closed doors. The campaign for CCTV is supported by vegans, vegetarians and meat-eaters who see it as a sensible, proportionate measure to help tackle the gratuitous violence we filmed.

* If it’s such a good idea why is there opposition to it?

There is massive support for this campaign. More than 140 of our current MPs have pledged their support, as have more than half of all Welsh Assembly Members in 2012. Three of our national parties have either adopted it as party policy or promised it in a manifesto and more than three-quarters of the public also support it, according to a June 2014 YouGov opinion poll. The British Veterinary Association and UNISON, which represents meat hygiene inspectors and some slaughterhouse vets, also supports it.

There is very little opposition and what there is comes from those who wish to conceal the truth about the industry. But hiding the truth is not the answer; the industry must demonstrate its commitment to ending illegal cruelty.

* Why do we need a law? Can’t there be a voluntary scheme?

Animal Aid has worked with supermarkets, wholesalers, government ministers, regulators, veterinary agencies and other bodies to encourage the voluntary installation of CCTV. The ten leading supermarkets, Booker wholesalers and RSPCA Assured all now insist that their slaughterhouse suppliers have CCTV installed. This means that more than half of the animals killed are covered by cameras. But millions are not. As was noted by Food Standards Agency Board Member, Professor Sue Atkinson, it is likely to be those who resist installing CCTV that are most in need of additional regulation and scrutiny.

Besides, without a law to specify where cameras should be sited, how long the footage should be retained and who gets to see it, slaughterhouses can simply refuse to hand over footage. And that is exactly what they do. In May 2016, The Times reported that one-fifth of slaughterhouses with cameras refused to share the footage with the regulators.

* Some slaughterhouses already have cameras and they did not stop Animal Aid from detecting illegal cruelty there. Doesn’t this show that cameras don’t work?

Four slaughterhouses we filmed had CCTV: Cheale Meats, Bowood Lamb, N Bramall & Son and Malik Food Group. At Cheale Meats, cameras were not located throughout the slaughterhouse, and none was sited in the stunning and killing areas. We filmed illegal cruelty in these ‘blind’ areas, but also in areas where there were official cameras. This suggests that the cameras that were installed were not monitored properly by an independent body.

At Bowood Lamb, there is no good reason why the vicious abuse of animals we filmed was not detected. Their cameras would have filmed it. This suggests that the slaughterhouse owner either was not monitoring the footage properly, or he had not taken meaningful action against the abuse.

At both N Bramall & Son and Malik Food Group, CCTV failed to prevent the law breaking and bad practice we filmed.

These cases reaffirm our call for independent monitoring of CCTV in slaughterhouses, and a law that sets out:
• Where the cameras are sited
• Which independent body will assess segments of footage
• How much footage should be viewed from each slaughterhouse
• How long the footage must be retained

* Isn’t the real problem halal meat? At least with humane slaughter the animals are stunned and not made to suffer.

Eleven of the slaughterhouses we filmed stunned animals, and two did not. Slaughter without stunning is horrific, but then the stunning process often caused appalling suffering, too. Whatever your views on stunning versus non-stunning, the campaign for mandatory CCTV aims to detect and remedy incompetent, deliberately abusive and illegal practices in stunned and non-stunned slaughter. Watch our film showing the difference between stunned and non-stunned slaughter here.