Government urged to consider abattoir CCTV
Animal welfare campaigners have warned the abattoir regulatory system ‘does not work’ after the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Defra failed to pursue an animal abuse case that eventually led to two people being jailed.
Last year the Animal Aid charity secretly filmed employees at the Cheale Meats abattoir, near Brentwood in Essex, seriously abusing pigs as they were sent to slaughter. One employee was caught stubbing a cigarette out on an animal.
The FSA did not pass on the case on to Defra, which was then the prosecuting body, because it said the department’s policy precluded the use of evidence obtained by means ‘outside its statutory powers’.
But the case was brought to court earlier this year after the Crown Prosecution Service took over Defra’s responsibility for undertaking prosecutions.
Two former employees were charged under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 on 25 April. Piotr Andrzej Wasiuta, of Southend, and Kelly Smith, of Benfleet, admitted the offences and were sentenced to six and four weeks in jail respectively.
The FSA denied there had been miscommunication between it and Defra over the affair. A spokesperson said: ‘Both Defra and the FSA made it clear at the time that Defra’s policy was that it would not be appropriate to rely on evidence provided by a third party that it could not obtain under its own statutory powers.’
A Defra spokesperson said the department had not been asked to consider prosecuting the case.
He added: ‘This case wasn’t submitted to Defra to prosecute and by the time it was submitted the CPS were the appropriate prosecution authority.’
Following the case Animal Aid repeated calls to make CCTV compulsory in all slaughterhouses.
Head of campaigns Kate Fowler said: ‘The current regulatory system does not work. It does not catch those who abuse animals.
‘But this case proves that properly placed and independently monitored cameras do work, and we renew our call for Defra to make CCTV mandatory to catch those who abuse animals and to act as a disincentive to those who might consider it.’
The Defra spokesperson said: ‘CCTV can play a useful role in helping operators monitor welfare. We keep all our policies under review, including the approach to CCTV and will be consulting on welfare at slaughter measures shortly.’
The FSA spokesperson said: ‘The Agency continues to support the use of CCTV at the point of stunning and kill, as a tool to help protect animal welfare.
‘However, we do not have the power to make the use of CCTV mandatory. Our Animal Welfare Survey shows that where deficiencies are found, appropriate enforcement action is always taken.’
CIEH head of policy David Kidney said: ‘The public is very concerned over welfare standards in abattoirs and the dreadful cases of abuse that have been uncovered.
‘Defra and the FSA need to make sure that they take more effective action in the future, taking into account the fact the CPS now has responsibility for prosecutions.’
According to a recent FSA survey 38 per cent of red meat slaughterhouses and 56 per cent of poultry slaughterhouses currently operate CCTV. It found there was ‘no significant variation in compliance levels’ with the Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995 between those premises with or without CCTV.