Poland’s Chief Veterinarian has ordered controls in slaughterhouses after television footage showed a company killing sick cows and selling the meat for human consumption.
Poland produces about 560,000 tonnes of beef a year, with 85 percent exported to countries including Britain, Spain, Italy and Germany. The footage showed sick cows being transported to the slaughterhouse where they were mistreated and killed.
It raises the old question about putting CCTV cameras in abattoirs, dairy cow milking sheds, shearing sheds, and other facilities handling animals. And how far should that go? It’s a common question that involves livestock, but what about dog grooming parlours, catteries and doggie daycare centres?
As with most issues involving animals, the suggestion to utilise CCTV cameras in areas handling animals was met with a mixed response. Those against the idea point out that animals are handled in places outside of standard facilities and that it would be impossible to have cameras everywhere. Additionally, “snooping on staff” would theoretically create “a sense of paranoia”.
From a legal perspective, it’s been pointed out that under animal welfare legislation (e.g. the Animal Welfare Act), there is no legal authority to be putting cameras in places like farms. Have a look at that argument. Can you see the limitations of it? The inference is that issues involving animals can only be addressed under the Animal Welfare Act. It’s what might be colloquially referred to as “a trap for young players” since anybody already working in the law knows that there are frequently multiple ways to address an issue.
To illustrate that very fact, have a look at what the UK government announced. Michael Gove, the English Environment Secretary, said that all abattoirs where live animals are present will be forced to install cameras in an attempt to clamp down on mistreatment. The footage from the cameras will be accessible to official vets working for the Food Standards Agency, who will highlight cases in which animals have been poorly treated. Those responsible could then lose their license or face prosecution”. The requirement was set to be authorised under “new legislation making cameras compulsory”. Will
There is no doubt that a country’s animal welfare legislation is widely regarded as a very powerful legal instrument to prevent animal cruelty. But issues of food safety, trade reputation, environmental protection and public interest are all additional avenues that are related to and often persuasive to, decisions under the law that have an impact on the welfare of animals. So the next time you’re reading a report alleging that nothing can be done because one piece of legislation doesn’t provide a solution, at least question whether or not the speaker's familiarity with the law is limited, or if they are trotting out an argument on the assumption that yours is.
What do you think about having CCTV in areas where animals are handled? Is that going too far? Or not far enough? Share your thoughts by going to the Facebook page of International Animal Law