Abattoirs (Closed-circuit Television)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 15th June 2017.

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Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

5. To ask the Scottish Government what consideration it has given to introducing legislation on the installation of closed-circuit television in abattoirs. (S5O-01123)

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government has already recommended the installation of closed-circuit television as best practice in the monitoring of animals at the time of killing. I am advised that an estimated 95 per cent—the overwhelming majority—of animals are slaughtered in plants where CCTV has already been installed voluntarily.

The Scottish Government does not consider that CCTV by itself prevents welfare failures or secures welfare compliance. We will continue to monitor animal welfare at the time of slaughter through the presence of Food Standards Scotland veterinary and inspection staff in all approved slaughterhouses. In addition, we will consider whether there is a role for the Scottish Government to help industry to produce a set of good practice protocols for the review, evaluation and use of CCTV.

Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

In data that was released under freedom of information law, Food Standards Scotland lists 706 breaches of animal welfare regulations in Scotland’s 35 abattoirs between May 2015 and January this year. Many of those instances involve multiple animals, and more than a third were rated as critical non-compliance, which means that they caused

“avoidable pain, distress or suffering”.

Many consumers would be horrified to learn that they might be supporting businesses in which animals have not been treated with care and respect. Surely the cabinet secretary should commit to insisting on 100 per cent CCTV coverage in areas where animals are stunned and killed. Of course, that does not take away from the importance of veterinary inspections.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

Scotland has the highest welfare standards at slaughter, with strict legal requirements, and it is important to avoid giving the impression that that is not the case. The Farm Animal Welfare Committee, which is the expert on the matter, has said that

CCTV cannot act as a substitute for direct oversight by management or veterinarians.

It is important to be clear that, of those 706 breaches, the majority—479—were actually attributable not to the slaughterhouse, as the member implied, but to on-farm or transport activity. Food Standards Scotland quite rightly takes all these matters extremely seriously indeed. The member did not mention this, but enforcement action has been taken in many of those cases, as is absolutely correct.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

Although it is indeed the case that, according to Food Standards Scotland, 95 per cent of slaughterhouses have CCTV, the benefit depends on where the CCTV operates. I suggest that it should be required in all areas involved in animal slaughter: from the point of delivery to lairage; in the lairage itself; in the race to the stunning box; in the stunning box and at the point of stunning; in the roll-out from the stunning box; during hoisting and sticking; and in the bleeding area. Should the Scottish Government ever consider legislation, would it factor in the need for CCTV in all those areas?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

The member displays an admirable knowledge of the specific details of the process of the slaughterhouse. She is quite right to highlight that each of those factors deserves to be considered carefully. That is why, as I said in my original answer, we have already indicated that we are considering helping the industry to produce a set of good practice protocols. It remains the case that the Farm Animal Welfare Committee believes that CCTV, by itself, cannot be the solution and that it is not a substitute for proper management and oversight. We will, of course, continue to keep these matters carefully under review.