Industry bosses have reiterated calls for mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses following a damning report which highlighted the abuse and distress caused to British farm animals at the end of their lives.
The investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalists, which analysed reports submitted to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), uncovered a series of major failures in the system, with various individual acts of cruelty and neglect committed by slaughterhouse staff, hauliers and farmers.
Reports by vets and hygiene inspectors detailed more than 4,000 severe breaches of animal welfare regulations over the past two years, including instances of chickens being boiled alive and trucks of animals suffocating or freezing to death.
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The report found a number of animals were presented for slaughter in poor condition – some emaciated or too weak to stand, others diseased or suffering from fractures and open wounds.
Vets and meat hygiene inspectors working for the FSA inside abattoirs reported a total of 9,511 animal welfare breaches between July 2014 and June this year.
Responding to the findings, Neil Parish, chairman of the Commons Select Committee for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and a farmer, called for the Government to crack down on cruelty at abattoirs.
“There is no place for animal cruelty at any stage of farm production – including the slaughterhouse,” said Mr Parish.
“This country prides itself as having some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world.
“It is vital the authorities crack down on any abuses and ensure there is zero tolerance to any mistreatment of animals when slaughtered.”
Marc Cooper, head of farm animals at the RSPCA, said the fact serious welfare breaches were the exception and not the norm was not the point.
He added the report findings showed mandatory CCTV inside transport vehicles as well as slaughterhouses should be considered.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has repeated its call for new legislation requiring all abattoirs to install CCTV and provide independent vets with unrestricted access.
BVA president Sean Wensley said: “CCTV risks being a ‘paper tiger’ if it is not monitored freely and independently.”