An udder shambles no more

According to the Humane Society, 2.6 million cows and 10 million pigs are slaughtered each year in the UK. Any culture of common decency must demand reasonable standards of welfare for these animals.

Michael Gove, the environment secretary, has introduced mandatory CCTV in all slaughterhouses where live animals are present. Veterinarians from the Food Standards Agency would also be given unrestricted access to footage of any areas of a slaughterhouse that livestock could be in. Any breaches may result in slaughterhouses receiving a welfare enforcement notice, suspension of staff licenses or even a criminal investigation.

Being the first in the world to implement laws protecting animals (Act to Prevent the Cruel and Improper Treatment of Cattle) the U.K. has a pretty good history of supporting animal welfare. However, especially in light of recent events - such as the case involving Owen Nichol who was filmed attacking cow and calves - there is far more to be done. Between 2009 and 2017, Animal Aid secretly filmed thirteen randomly chosen UK slaughterhouses and twelve were found to be breaking animal welfare laws. Nonetheless, according to the Food Standards Agency 50.7% of red meat slaughterhouses and 29.6% of white meat slaughterhouses in England and Wales do not yet have some form of CCTV in use for animal welfare purposes. That is 50.7% and 29.6% of slaughterhouses too many.

Not only is this reform a constructive step toward pragmatic progress on animal welfare, but this would pave the way for the U.K. to be an example for other nations to follow. Gove emphasised this, claiming that “as we prepare to leave the EU, these measures provide a further demonstration to consumers around the world that our food is produced to the very highest standards”. 

The reassurance of adequate animal welfare may be advantageous for British farmers looking to export internationally. Overseas supermarkets and high-spending consumers will be assured that British animals will have been treated with the highest possible standards. The mark of quality as we open up new markets could bring in vital new revenue. With Brexit looming and new trade deals with developed markets like the United States being talked up, having a comparative advantage to drive home in a new market will be key. 

Support for this particular measure is, importantly, widespread. In June 2014, a YouGov poll found that 76 per cent of those asked said the government should make CCTV mandatory for slaughterhouses. You need not be a social justice warrior, militant vegan, or career campaigner to appreciate and want to bolster decent animal welfare standards. It is hoped that this will be a precedent for further progress on standards of animal care, as well as hygiene and safety standards. Britain's animals deserve to have the best possible treatment throughout their lives and consumers deserve to know they are receiving it.