Costs associated with installing CCTV has seen a number of small abattoirs miss the deadline for compliance in England and Wales.
Food Standards Agency (FSA) figures showed 56 abattoirs were not yet fully compliant. All operating slaughterhouses in England were required to comply with the new CCTV legislation by November 5.
This figure includes 16 slaughterhouses using gas stunning, which have been given until December 19 to comply.
It was expected that once these sites are compliant around 96% of slaughterhouse activity will be covered.
The news attracted criticism from animal welfare campaigners, but the Sustainable Food Trust (SFT) said they must appreciate the problems small abattoirs face investing in these systems, with many losing money as the hides and skins market collapses.
Only 56 small red meat abattoirs were left in the UK, with seven closing in 2018 alone.
Richard Young, SFT policy director said: “Animal welfare groups are not acting in the best interests of animal welfare in piling yet more pressure on the few remaining small abattoirs that have still to install CCTV.
“I fully understand their concern about the factory scale of the slaughtering industry and the abuses that have occurred, and it is clear that the Government is very sensitive to their demands.
“But they are actually helping to drive the last few small abattoirs out of business.
“These are small family-run businesses where animals are treated as individuals and do not have to endure long journeys.”
Small abattoirs also face a range of other costs which make it difficult for them to compete economically with large slaughterhouses.
He called for small abattoirs to be recognised as a ‘public good’ and for grants to be made available to help install CCTV and structural improvements.
“We would really welcome it if animal rights and welfare organisations would meet with us and discuss these issues openly.
“They have done some good in shining a light on the abuses that have occurred, but if they really care about animal welfare they will come to understand that the smallest abattoirs desperately need public support at the moment, not further criticism just for cheap headlines.”
An FSA spokesperson said: “The majority of slaughterhouses in England are already compliant with mandatory CCTV regulations and the number continues to increase.
“The FSA has begun enforcement action against all operators who are yet to comply as set out in our guidelines.
“As part of this process, we will take into consideration those businesses who are working to meet the requirements within a reasonable period of time.
“However, businesses who fail to do so will face further enforcement action.”