There are no plans to introduce CCTV in abattoirs in Northern Ireland despite the new animal welfare standards and legislation, coming into force in England last Friday.
The new move in Britain follows a consultation by the department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) last summer on plans to deliver the current government’s manifesto commitment for cameras in every abattoir in England in all areas where live animals are present.
Other recent reforms to improve animal welfare include:
Proposals to increase the maximum sentence for animal cruelty tenfold to five years and the launch of a call for evidence on the live export of animals.
Official veterinarians in England will soon have unrestricted access to footage to reassure consumers that high welfare standards are being effectively enforced.
All slaughterhouses will be required to comply in full by 5 November, following an adjustment period of six months to enable businesses to install a suitable CCTV system.
Animal Welfare Minister Lord Gardiner said: “The government shares the public’s high regard for animal welfare and we are proud to have some of the highest standards in the world. Today we welcome the new law which requires mandatory CCTV in all abattoirs in England.
“We are a nation that cares about animals and these strong measures will ensure all animals are treated with the utmost respect at all stages of life and allows us to continue to lead the way to raise the bar in high welfare standards.”
Commenting a DAERA spokesperson said: “The welfare of animals at the time of slaughter is regulated in Northern Ireland by The Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2014. This in turn gives effect to Council Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing.
“Installation of CCTV is not mandatory in slaughterhouses in Northern Ireland; however over 99% of animals and birds processed here are slaughtered under CCTV coverage. CCTV cameras are installed by individual business operators primarily to monitor and protect animal welfare (as distinct from security CCTV).
“The Department’s official veterinarians maintain a permanent presence in approved slaughterhouses during the hours of slaughter and routinely monitor standards to verify that operators fulfil their obligations under meat hygiene and animal welfare legislation.
“Compliance is also assessed as an integral part of the regular audit of Food Business Operators.
“There are no plans to make the installation of CCTV in slaughterhouses here compulsory. The systems currently in place provide assurance that welfare standards are being met in Northern Ireland.”
For its part, the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) is aware of the growing interest of the general public in animal welfare-related matters. A case in point is the Union’s concern regarding the introduction of greater controls on the movement of live animals for slaughter.
The overwhelming view from local farmers is that introducing more controls would be extremely damaging for the cattle and sheep sector in Northern Ireland.
A Union spokesperson said:
“Farmers in Northern Ireland take animal welfare very seriously and we believe the standards we comply with are amongst the highest standards in the world. However, it is important to acknowledge that the existing EU requirements on animal transport are all supported by science which has been stringently reviewed by the European Food Safety Authority.
“In terms of implementing these rules, it is our understanding that the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs is very content with animal welfare during transport as long as the European requirements are being met. This is a position we support.”
Over 50,000 cattle and 500,000 sheep are exported live from Northern Ireland each year for further production or slaughter in other regions of the United Kingdom and to EU Member States such as the Republic of Ireland and Spain.