PLANS to introduce mandatory CCTV in all slaughterhouses in England have been widely welcomed.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove, has announced a six-week consultation exercise at the end of last week.

The proposals require CCTV coverage in every slaughterhouse in England in all areas where live animals are present, with unrestricted access to footage for Official Vets.

The Government has also confirmed it will raise standards for farm animals and domestic pets by modernising statutory animal welfare codes to reflect enhancements in medicines, technology and the latest research and advice from vets.

The codes will remain enshrined in law and the first to be updated will cover chickens bred for meat.

Mr Gove said: “As we prepare to leave the EU, these measures provide a further demonstration to consumers around the world that our food is produced to the very highest standards.”

Gudrun Ravetz, British Veterinary Association president, said: “Mandatory CCTV in all areas of slaughterhouses will provide an essential tool in fostering a culture of compassion that could help safeguard animal welfare and we are particularly pleased to see a commitment to Official Veterinarians having unrestricted access to footage, which BVA has been calling for.

“Vets’ independence and unique qualifications help ensure that the UK will continue to have the highest standards of animal health, welfare and food safety.”

Heather Hancock, chairman of the Food Standards Agency, said they take a zero tolerance approach to any breaches of animal welfare standards in slaughterhouses.

“Last year, we concluded that it was time to make CCTV compulsory in slaughterhouses, progress on voluntary adoption having plateaued,” she said.

“We see CCTV as an invaluable management tool for business owners to help with compliance with official controls and to improve animal welfare standards across the industry.”

Charles Sercombe, NFU livestock board chairman, said: “British farming is fully committed to high levels of animal welfare and the NFU expects this to continue once livestock leave the farm. The NFU welcomes mandatory CCTV monitoring in all UK abattoirs as maintaining public confidence of our great British product is incredibly important.”

Dr Marc Cooper, head of farm animals at the RSPCA, said the call for mandatory CCTV in all slaughterhouses had been one of the RSPCA’s longest running campaigns.

“All farm animals deserve to be treated with compassion and respect throughout their lives, and this includes at the time of killing,” he said.

The consultation on CCTV in slaughterhouses runs for six weeks until September 21. The consultation on the code of practice for the welfare of meat chickens and meat breeding chickens will run for eight weeks.

Welfare codes on laying hens, pigs, dogs, cats and horses are expected to be updated over the next year.