Closed-circuit television (CCTV) recording will become mandatory in all slaughterhouses in England next year, Britain’s Environment Secretary Michael Gove confirmed Nov. 12.

Great Britain’s Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) will take the plans forward following an extremely positive reaction from the industry, welfare groups, and the public.

In August, the IK’s Secretary of State launched a consultation on the plans to deliver a manifesto commitment for CCTV to be required in every slaughterhouse in England in all areas where live animals—including horses, ponies, and other equids—are present, with unrestricted access to footage for official veterinarians with the goal of reassuring consumers that high welfare standards are being effectively enforced.

“We applaud the government for this welcome advance for horse welfare, as accountability and transparency are essential if the slaughterhouse is to remain an option for horse owners who cannot afford the high price of euthanasia,” said Roly Owers, MRCVS, chief executive of World Horse Welfare, an equine welfare charity in the UK.

World Horse Welfare has campaigned since 2013 for mandatory CCTV in all areas of a slaughterhouse, as recommended by the Farm Animal Welfare Council, and for the footage to be easily accessible by official veterinarians. The charity believes that CCTV can aid official veterinarians in monitoring welfare and serve as an excellent training resource for slaughterhouses to help make all processes as welfare-friendly as possible.

“Without CCTV in all areas of the slaughterhouse where live animals are present, horses at abattoirs are effectively ‘invisible’ and horse owners needed greater confidence in the process,” Owers said.

Last year almost three-quarters of more than 900 horse owners the charity asked through a Facebook survey said they would not have confidence that horse welfare would be protected throughout the slaughter process. While more than 90% of those asked would not use a slaughterhouse to end their horse’s life, almost half of them would consider it an acceptable option if measures were in place such as CCTV which is constantly in operation and available to the relevant authorities for monitoring at any time.

The Government’s consultation response cited that “World Horse Welfare noted that market pressure for CCTV was not present in horse slaughter but there was a need to increase confidence in horse owners that slaughter was a humane end-of-life choice.”

Legislation will be introduced in the new year, coming into force in the spring. All slaughterhouses will be required to comply following an adjustment period of up to six months.

A summary of responses published Nov. 12 showed that of almost 4,000 respondents, more than 99% were supportive of the plans. 

“We have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and want to cement our status as a global leader by continuing to raise the bar,” said Gove. “The reaction to this consultation highlights the strength of feeling among the public that all animals should be treated with the utmost respect at all stages of life and be subject to the highest possible welfare standards.

“These strong measures also provide a further demonstration to consumers around the world that as we leave the EU we continue to produce our food to the very highest standards,” he added.

Having carefully considered all of the responses, the government agreed with the overwhelming proportion of respondents that were in favor of mandatory CCTV to protect animal welfare in slaughterhouses. The proposals will also give the Food Standards Agency’s official veterinarians unfettered access to the last 90 days of footage to help them monitor and enforce animal welfare standards.

The Food Standards Agency has strict processes in place for the approval of slaughterhouses, and specially trained vets carry out checks to make sure the welfare of animals is protected throughout their time in the slaughterhouse. If breaches are found, a slaughterhouse can be given a welfare enforcement notice, have its staff’s licenses suspended or revoked, or be referred for a criminal investigation.

“This is a very welcome and crucial step towards introducing higher welfare right across the food chain,” said David Bowles, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’s head of public affairs. “We applaud the Secretary of State for his steadfast and focused commitment to ensuring the highest possible animal welfare standards in the UK once we have left the EU.

“The RSPCA looks forward to seeing the details of the proposal as issues such as where the cameras will be located, footage quality and storage, and who can have access to it are essential to making the legislation meaningful.”

Added British Veterinary Association Senior Vice President Gudrun Ravetz, “The mandatory installation of CCTV is a vital tool to ensure high standards of animal health, welfare and food safety in all slaughterhouses.

“Official veterinarians carry out an essential role in slaughterhouses by independently assessing and reporting breaches of animal welfare, and unrestricted access to CCTV footage will allow them to carry out this role even more effectively. We have been campaigning for these measures for a number of years and it is reassuring to see such a high level of support for their implementation from industry and the public.”