Science - May 30, 2017

‘Video recordings of slaughter definitely help’

Albert Sikkema

All Dutch abattoirs are to be fitted with cameras so that the Netherlands Food and Consumer Safety Authority (NVWA) can monitor animal welfare. This has been agreed between State Secretary Van Dam and the meat sector. Marien Gerritzen, who does research on animal welfare at Wageningen Livestock Research, applauds the idea.

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Why camera surveillance now?

‘The immediate impetus came from Animal Rights footage from an abattoir on Belgium, which showed abuse. But activist groups such as The Dutch Society for the Protection of Animals have been wanting cameras in abattoirs for a long time. A few abattoirs already have cameras in place for their own use, but so far they haven’t shared the footage with the NVWA. That is going to change now. A good thing: monitoring is good.’

Are there abuses then?

‘I often visit abattoirs for my animal welfare research on slaughter. Here in the Netherlands I have never seen anyone treating pigs the way they were doing in that Belgian abattoir. I was really shocked by that mistreatment. Of course things sometimes go wrong when the animals are unloaded, when they are waiting for slaughter, or being herded towards the stunner, but it is usually a case of stress due to haste, heat, or two groups of animals being combined. There has been more supervision in recent years: the large abattoirs have appointed animal welfare officers. But video recordings will certainly help because if abattoir workers know they are being filmed, they will be more careful about how they treat the animals.’

Why hasn’t this been introduced earlier?

‘The abattoirs used the argument of their employees’ privacy, and that is still an issue. I don’t know all the details of the agreement between Van Dam and the meat sector, but I assume that there won’t be any live footage coming from the abattoirs. The NVWA can demand to see footage and is obliged to destroy it after some time to stop it falling into other hands. I understand that point, because the images can make it look worse that it really is. A bleeding animal that is still moving, for instance, looks terrible. But if the animal is properly stunned, there is no animal welfare problem.’