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Vets lead moves to address slaughterhouse problems


The Veterinary Public Health Association (VPHA) has taken action to address some of the issues raised by the Animal Aid undercover filming at a number of slaughterhouses in England.

In June VPHA brought together representatives from a number of organisations with an interest in ensuring good animal welfare standards in abattoirs: British Meat Processors Association (BMPA); Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS); Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW); Defra; FSA Operations Group (FSAOG formerly the Meat Hygiene Service);and the Humane Slaughter Association (HSA). The meeting was observed by representatives of the British Veterinary Association (BVA).

The meeting considered the issues arising from the Animal Aid footage and attempted to identify some of the reasons for the problems and how the organisations might work together to address them.

The organisations acknowledged that the Animal Aid films raised concerns at various stages of the slaughter process, including the handling of animals and the use of stunning equipment.

The meeting discussed:

  • issues relating to the layout and structure of abattoirs;
  • the ability (or inability) of abattoir operators and Official Veterinarians (OVs) to view inside the stun pen unobserved;
  • factors influencing effective enforcement of animal welfare regulations.
  • implementation of the new EU Regulation 1099/2009 which places additional requirements on abattoir operators, and comes into force in January 2013;

It was acknowledged that responsibility for animal welfare lies with abattoir operators and that the role of FSAOG through its OVs is to monitor operators compliance. The group agreed to continue working together to find workable solutions to the problems identified. A lot of work is already being undertaken by the individual organisations and the group agreed to share this information and any best practice.

On the specific issue of CCTV in abattoirs at the stunning/slaughter point, which has been raised by Animal Aid and other campaigners, the group agreed that Food Business Operators (FBOs) must have effective procedures in place either to constantly monitor stunning and slaughter operations, or to enable the FBO or his/her Animal Welfare Officer (AWO) to inconspicuously observe stunning and slaughter operations at any time; such arrangements may include an aperture or window into the stunning area or the use of CCTV by the FBO for welfare monitoring and management purposes.

In addition to any other checks on welfare that they employ, OVs should have access to FBOs welfare monitoring procedures to enable them to audit FBO compliance with animal welfare legislation.

VPHA will organise a further meeting of all parties to assess progress on the agreed actions.

Commenting after the meeting Kenneth Clarke, President of the VPHA, said:

The UK meat industry has generally high animal welfare standards, but it is clear from the Animal Aid footage that, on occasion, a few abattoirs have fallen below these standards.

It was apparent from our discussions that there are a variety of reasons for poor animal welfare, some of which are specific to individual plants. Sharing best practice across all plants will be a positive step, but each will need a plant-specific approach to address individual issues.

The meeting was very productive and I believe there is a firm commitment from all involved to work together to address the problems identified and continue to improve animal welfare at slaughter. VPHA will continue to work with the BVA and the members of the group.

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