Once in a great while, big corporations do something right. According to the Guardian, several U.K. supermarket chains are demanding that all abattoirs that supply them with meat install CCTV (closed-circuit television) systems in their stunning and killing areas, “as they move to reassure consumers that animals are not being cruelly treated.” The supermarkets — including Morrisons, M&S, Waitrose, Co-op, and Sainsbury’s — have also promised that CCTV images will be independently monitored.
These large British firms are acting in response to an undercover investigation of slaughterhouses conducted last year by Animal Aid. Secret video taken at various slaughterhouses showed “a sheep being thrown into a pen, another being carried in a wheelbarrow, a pig being kicked, another being hit in the face with a shackle hook, and animals being improperly stunned.” Pretty bad stuff, but actually fairly mild compared to the atrocities that are routine in U.S. abattoirs. Still, it was, in the words of Tim Smith, chief executive of the U.K.’s Food Standards Agency, which regulates slaughterhouses, “sickening.”
The push to use video monitoring in slaughterhouses has been growing in momentum. Animal scientist Temple Grandin suggested video feeds of livestock operations last year. Granted, her reasons had more to do with protecting the interests of the industry which frequently employs her. In a speech delivered at Fresno State, she said “farmers need to do a better job of communicating with the public about their animal handling practices.” After all, most people have only been exposed to videos taken by animal activists showing “livestock animals being mistreated and abused.”
In Vermont, the state senate passed a bill that would lead to video cameras being installed in slaughterhouses with two or more violations of animal welfare laws.
Even 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.”
Since the USDA has long been in the back-pocket of Big Ag, I’m not holding my breath for the federal government to step in and mandate (as opposed to just “encourage”) CCTV in the nation’s slaughterhouses. But what’s stopping the nation’s big supermarket chains like Kroger and Safeway from following the lead of their fellow corporations in the U.K. and doing the right thing? Nothing… except the will to act. So why not give them a little encouragement? Tell Kroger and Safeway to demand that CCTV systems be fitted in the stunning and killing areas of all abattoirs that supply them with meat.
Photo Credit: Mercy for Animals