Animal health industry analysis

During this report the topic of CCTV recording becoming mandatory in all slaughterhouses in England will be discussed. The Environment Secretary Michael Gove has proclaimed that the use of CCTV cameras within slaughterhouses will reassure consumers that abattoir workers are delivering the highest standard of animal welfare. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) are also highly in favour of the new legislation as they claim to have a zero-tolerance approach to any breaches that are made against animal welfare. (Mandatory CCTV in all slaughterhouses under new animal welfare plans – GOV.UK, n.d.) This report will also evaluate whether the new legislation will improve animal welfare and the effects it will have on the meat industry from a business point of view.

The consultation on CCTV in slaughterhouses started on 11th August 2017 and was set to run for the following 6 weeks after that date. The Environment secretary Michael Gove has stated that by putting these measures in place, it will demonstrate further to consumers throughout the globe that UK meat production is of the very highest standard. Qualified vets would be responsible for monitoring and evaluating the footage to determine the quality of the welfare given to the animals. (Mandatory CCTV in all slaughterhouses under new animal welfare plans – GOV.UK, n.d.) Harper and Makatouni  (2002) claim that results taken from focus group discussions indicate that consumers use animal welfare as an indicator of the quality, safety and healthiness of what they are buying, with most consumers being drawn towards organic or free range foods as its thought welfare standards of these products would be better. With this in mind, the new CCTV legislation that is being considered by the government could potentially improve animal welfare as well as generating more money for the meat industry. If the public are reassured that all meat that is slaughtered in the UK is up to the highest welfare standard, they may feel more obliged to buy meat from smaller producers or supermarkets rather than organic/free range producers. If improved welfare standards are what’s going to generate more money for the meat industry than producers will feel more obliged to abide by the law and give their animals, the highest quality welfare.

In 2004 the government produced a Strategy for Animal Health and Welfare for Great Britain. The vision of the strategy was to improve and sustain animal welfare for the following 10 years. One of the statements of the strategy specified “Consumers value the confidence they have in food produced safely from healthy animals that are well cared for. Consumers and retailers accept that higher standards of animal health and welfare are not cost free.” (Council, 2009). Statistics produced by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board show that the average farm and retail price of beef, lamb and pork has been increasing since August 2016 – October 2017. (AHDB Beef and Lamb, 2017)  This may be due to a demand in higher welfare standards and quality of product. The new CCTV legislation that is being discussed may cost the industry and the tax payer more money. Referring back to the strategy produced in 2004, it also states “The costs of livestock health and welfare are appropriately balanced between industry and the taxpayer.” (Council, 2009) The cost of providing all slaughterhouses in England with CCTV cameras, as well as paying qualified vets to review the footage and determine the quality of the animal’s welfare may work against the industry from a financial point of view. If the cost of improving welfare becomes too high, consumers may stop indulging in the meat industry or purchase meat that has been imported if it means it will be cheaper.

To conclude, the introduction of CCTV into slaughterhouses in England could potentially improve the welfare of animals as the behaviour of abattoir workers would be constantly reviewed by qualified vets. This would potentially stop workers from breaching any animal welfare laws that they are expected to abide by. On the other side of this argument, the new legislation that is being considered could become very costly to the industry and potentially the tax payer. If the price of meat that is slaughtered in the UK becomes too exclusive, consumers may be obligated to purchase cheaper meat that has been imported into the country or stop contributing to the meat industry all together. If the CCTV legislation is to be put into place permanently the government will need to work out a way to make it cost effective whilst still improving overall animal welfare.

 

References

AHDB Beef and Lamb (2017) ‘Farm to retail price spread October 2017.’

Council, F. A. W. (2009) Farm animal welfare in Great Britain: Past, present and future. Farm Animal Welfare Council.

Harper, G. C. and Makatouni, A. (2002) ‘Consumer perception of organic food production and farm animal welfare.’ British Food Journal, 104(3/4/5) pp. 287–299.

Mandatory CCTV in all slaughterhouses under new animal welfare plans – GOV.UK (n.d.). [Online] [Accessed on 15th November 2017] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/mandatory-cctv-in-all-slaughterhouses-under-new-animal-welfare-plans.

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