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Will the welfare of farm animals improve with the use of CCTV?

Closed circuit television (CCTV) and similar technologies can be excellent additional animal welfare monitoring tools at facilities where large numbers of animals are received and handled daily, such as slaughtering establishments, saleyards, and other commercial facilities. However, CCTV cannot replace in-person monitoring, nor can it replace well-trained staff with good stockpersonship and the right attitude towards animals.

There has been an increasing demand from the public for transparency around farm animal practices and how they are regulated to ensure good animal welfare outcomes. Animal welfare is of particular concern at facilities such as slaughter establishments and saleyards, because animals are likely already stressed from being transported and being in a new environment with unfamiliar animals and people. These facilities also often receive animals from different locations and producers/farmers, which provides a unique opportunity to monitor and verify animal welfare across a broad sample of animals. 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 at facilities and demonstrate ongoing compliance relevant animal welfare requirements, regular ongoing self-verification and external independent audits should be conducted.

How can CCTV be used to improve the welfare of farm animals?

The use of CCTV can improve the efficiency of animal welfare monitoring and enforcement activities through real-time monitoring and reviewing of recorded footage. Where CCTV is used to monitor animal welfare, it should have clear and unobstructed views of all areas where live animals are handled and where the risk to animal welfare is greatest, such as at unloading from transport vehicles, where animals are being handled and moved, and at the point of stunning and slaughter. The use of CCTV also helps promote good practice, while deterring unacceptable behaviours that could negatively affect animal welfare. In the event that unacceptable behaviour, such as animal abuse, occurs at a facility, CCTV can be used to detect and provide evidence to support any disciplinary actions or prosecutions.

An example of how CCTV can improve farm animal welfare can been seen in countries such as England where CCTV was made mandatory in 2018 at all slaughtering establishments. The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs conducted a post implementation review of the CCTV regulations in England which was published in 2023. The review reported that the number of major and critical animal welfare non-compliance decreased by 11% in 2020/21 compared to 2019/20, when excluding non-compliances specifically related to CCTV implementation [1]. Enforcement data from the UK Food Standards Agency in 2020/21 showed at least 10% of slaughtering establishment non-compliances identified with CCTV footage, and that CCTV was used as evidence to support 33% of cases where a slaughtering establishment certificate to operate was suspended or revoked [1]. Overall, the review concluded that mandatory CCTV resulted in benefits to animal welfare and in assurance of high welfare standards at slaughtering establishments in England [1].

In addition to monitoring animal welfare, CCTV can be a useful staff training tool and overcome potential observer bias during staff competency assessments and self-monitoring activities. The self-monitoring of compliance allows facility management to identify and promptly address problem areas and promotes continual improvement of practices.

CCTV and animal welfare in Australia

In Australia, CCTV is currently not legally required at facilities such as saleyards or slaughtering establishments. A 2018 report commissioned by the Australian Government, Australia’s Shifting Mindset on Farm Animal Welfare, found 74% of people agreed that mandatory and independently monitored CCTV should be installed in slaughtering establishments to prevent possible animal abuse. To meet the public’s expectations, many retailers and certification/assurance schemes now require CCTV at slaughtering establishments, which has resulted in many of the larger abattoirs and poultry processors in Australia having CCTV installed voluntarily to monitor and verify animal welfare.

What is the RSPCA’s view on CCTV usage and animal welfare?

The RSPCA strongly encourages the use of CCTV and similar technologies as monitoring tools to promote good animal welfare at facilities. The use of CCTV also improves transparency and helps provide public assurance that animal welfare requirements are being maintained in Australia.

However, the RSPCA recognises that CCTV cannot replace direct in-person monitoring and verification of animal welfare at facilities by competent staff, animal welfare officers, and independent third-party auditors. Where CCTV is used in facilities, considerations should also be given to ensure data privacy and protection.

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Updated on August 2, 2023
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