In a speech delivered this April at Fresno State, animal behaviorist Temple Grandin suggested installing live video feeds of livestock operations. Later that same month, the Vermont Senate passed a bill that might lead to video cameras in slaughterhouses. According to WCAX News, “The bill would set up a $5,000 fine for animal cruelty and any slaughterhouse with two violations would need to install video cameras for inspectors to review.”

The Vermont law was enacted largely in response to horrible abuses of calves at a local veal slaughterhouse. The abuses were revealed as a result of an undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States. Among the cruelties videoed by the HSUS were animals being “kicked, slapped and repeatedly shocked with electric prods and subjected to other mistreatment.”

Now the Food Safety Inspection Service, a U.S. Department of Agriculture sub-agency responsible for overseeing animal handling at most slaughterhouses, has entered the fray. In a snappily titled, Draft Compliance Guidelines for Use of Video or Other Electronic Monitoring or Recording Equipment In Federally Inspected Establishments, document (pdf) released last month, the FSIS states “that video or other electronic monitoring or recording equipment can be used in federally inspected establishments” and “encourages establishments to consider the use of this technology, particularly in their activities to ensure that there is humane handling of livestock and use of good commercial practices in poultry.”

The key word here is “encourages,” which is quite a bit milder than, say, “mandates.” As Gene Baur at Farm Sanctuary notes, the FSIS “only suggests that slaughterhouses use video technology to expand oversight.” “Despite their own acknowledgment that animal handling violations are difficult to document with only few inspectors on the ground,” Baur says, “the agency neglected to make video monitoring a requirement.”

For Gene Baur, a suggestion is not enough. One of America’s most tireless champions of farm animals, he wants the FSIS to go one step further by making video surveillance mandatory. Since the FSIS has invited public comment on their proposed draft guidelines, Baur is calling on animal lovers to write to the agency and “ask officials to make video monitoring at slaughterhouses not merely a recommendation, but a requirement.”

Paul McCartney famously called for slaughterhouses with glass walls. Video surveillance might be the next best thing. Take Gene Baur up on his suggestion and contact the FSIS to ask them to mandate video monitoring at slaughterhouses.

Photo Credit: Farm Sanctuary

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