Animal welfare is of particular concern at slaughtering establishments (abattoirs, poultry processors and knackeries), saleyards and other commercial facilities where large numbers of animals are handled on a daily basis. At these facilities animals are often already stressed being in a new environment with unfamiliar animals and people, meaning there is already a high risk of animals experiencing poor welfare.
CCTV (or similar technologies) is an excellent additional animal welfare monitoring tool particularly where in-person monitoring is challenging due to the number of animals being handled at these facilities. However, CCTV cannot replace the hiring of people with the right attitude towards animals, comprehensive staff training and good stockmanship.
It is the facility management’s responsibility to ensure that animal welfare is seen as a priority and that there is a zero-tolerance policy towards animal abuse. To ensure good animal welfare, people handling animals should be trained and competent in low-stress handling techniques and the specific tasks they are expected to perform. Facilities should conduct regular on-going self-verification as well as external independent audits to demonstrate ongoing compliance with good practice and relevant animal welfare requirements.
How can CCTV improve farm animal welfare?
The use of CCTV allows for facility management and auditors to monitor compliance with relevant animal welfare requirements through real-time monitoring and reviewing of recorded footage. It also promotes good practice, while deterring undesirable and unacceptable behaviour that could negatively affect animal welfare.
The self-monitoring of compliance by facility management allows problem areas to be identified and promptly addressed and promotes continual improvement of practices. In addition to a monitoring tool, CCTV can be used to detect and provide evidence to support prosecutions where animal abuse or cruelty has occurred. Where CCTV is used, it should monitor all areas where live animals are handled and the risk to animal welfare is greatest, e.g. at unloading from transport vehicles, where animals are moved in and out of holding pens, and at the point of stunning and slaughter.
The UK Farm Animal Welfare Committee 2015 report Opinion on CCTV in slaughterhouses outlines some advantages of CCTV as well as appropriate protocols for its use. All abattoirs in the UK, since early 2018, have been required to have CCTV in areas where live animals are held and handled. A 2018 Australian report, Australia’s Shifting Mindset on Farm Animal Welfare, found that 74% of people agreed that mandatory and independently monitored CCTV should be installed in slaughterhouses to curb abuse. To meet customer expectations, many retailers and certification/assurance schemes are now requiring CCTV at facilities, such as slaughtering establishments, to ensure on-going monitoring and verification of compliance with animal welfare requirements.
What is the RSPCA’s view on CCTV usage?
The RSPCA strongly encourages the use of CCTV and similar technologies as monitoring tools that help promote good animal welfare. The use of CCTV improves transparency, helps public confidence, and sends a strong signal to those people working with animals that animal welfare is of the highest priority.