The Council of Ministers has approved this Tuesday a Royal Decree that establishes new measures for the control of animal welfare, through the installation of cameras and video surveillance systems in all slaughterhouses, including mobile ones, regardless of their size. Spain thus becomes the first country in the European Union to implement this requirement, which until now was voluntary, which includes an adaptation time of one or two years, depending on whether it is a large slaughterhouse or small.
The Government of Murcia ignored several warnings that the pig macro-farms polluted the Mar Menor
“Video surveillance systems are a demand from consumers, who want to be certain that the product has been slaughtered according to animal welfare standards,” argues Rafael Escudero, Secretary General of Consumer Affairs, who recalls that there are already other types of controls , as carried out by veterinarians, but that it is about seeking “greater certainty” to guarantee the good treatment of animals.
The Royal Decree has been promoted by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs and has as co-proponents the Ministries of Agriculture, Health and Social Rights and the 2030 Agenda. Escudero explains that this measure is “a repeated demand from consumer associations, to have greater confidence, that gives guarantees of animal welfare; and from the meat industry itself, which also demanded this control system”. For this reason, he adds, it is a measure that has the support of the different actors.
The objective of installing these video surveillance systems is to guarantee “animal welfare during the unloading, transfer, lairage and stunning of animals, and improve food safety guarantees for consumers,” explain sources from the Ministry of Consumption.
These chambers must cover, at a minimum, the facilities where live animals are found, including the unloading areas, the driving corridors and the areas where stunning and bleeding activities are carried out. In the case of poultry and pigs, the installation of the cameras must allow the recording of the scalding in order to verify that animals that show signs of life are not subjected to this operation, add the aforementioned sources.
“This is a rule that places Spain at the head of Europe in this matter and that, in addition to guaranteeing the welfare of animals during their stay in slaughterhouses, also improves food safety guarantees for consumers”, values the Minister of Consumption, Alberto Garzón, through a statement.
One or two years of adaptation
From the publication in the Official State Gazette of this Royal Decree, the large slaughterhouses will have one year to install the video surveillance cameras and the small ones, two years. It is estimated that there are currently around 700 slaughterhouses in Spain, half of them small. What determines the size difference? The number of animals that are slaughtered.
“A small one does not exceed 40 cows, oxen or bulls slaughtered per week. About 2,000 a year”, argues Rafael Escudero. On the other hand, in a large one, 200 pigs or 400 sheep per week can be reached. The calculation of Consumption is that each slaughterhouse will have to allocate around 6,000 euros to the installation of these video surveillance systems, for which it is understood that it is necessary to give an adjustment time to dilute the economic impact.
Supervision and sanctions
The obligation to have video surveillance cameras thus becomes one more tool to improve the work of supervision and control of this type of installation, which falls to the Autonomous Communities, and which does not provide for additional sanctions. If the deadline arrives, 12 or 24 months, in which the slaughterhouses must have cameras, and they do not comply, the regional governments will be able to urge the company that owns the installation to install video surveillance or even close the slaughterhouse.
If the recordings detect irregularities, in addition to the sanctions that are already contemplated in the current legislation, the companies’ animal welfare certificate may be withdrawn.
The latest data from the National Plan for Official Control of the Food Chain (PNCOCA) 2016-2020, indicate that in that last year there was an increase of 24% in the global number of non-compliances in the specific official controls on welfare carried out by the Communities . Of these non-compliances, 64% were related to improper handling in the unloading, transfer or lairage of animals, the conditions of stunning and bleeding or the training of the operators who carry out the slaughter.
The Ministry of Consumption indicates that those responsible for slaughterhouses must keep the recorded images for possible subsequent verification. Specifically, “according to data protection legislation, they will have to keep them for a month or more, in case a file is opened.” Likewise, companies must have a data protection delegate, who will be the person responsible for the recordings.
Slaughterhouses will also have to ensure their reproduction, copying or transmission to other devices with the same quality as the original recording, indicates Consumption.
The meat companies, in favor of the cameras
Companies in the meat sector say they are in favor of this measure. The Interprofessional Association of Poultry Meat (Avianza) ensures that “it supports all measures that guarantee animal welfare and, as a measure of this, is the installation of video surveillance cameras, which the sector already has installed in the vast majority of rooms of transformation”.
“The commitment of the poultry sector around the principles of animal welfare, sustainability and controls is firm,” he says. “Our transformation rooms, farms, production centers and the entire ecosystem of companies in general, are increasingly professionalized and technified to address this issue that has become a priority for everyone. For years, we have been transparently showing consumers that our sector complies beyond the principles set by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) in terms of animal welfare, as well as the regulations of the European Union, such as the European Convention for the Protection of animals on livestock farms”.
Avianza also points out that it works with other interprofessionals in the meat sector to “create the common framework that allows us to promote a seal that represents to our consumers the guarantee of poultry production that is governed by the highest standards of animal welfare, as well as ethical criteria”. “The entire Spanish meat livestock sector is rowing in the same direction under the “Animal Welfare Seal” that we are finalizing under these criteria,” they conclude.
For its part, the National Association of Meat Industries of Spain (Anice) assures that, in the board of directors held on March 28, “it was approved to request our administration the necessary legislative modifications to ensure the installation of surveillance cameras in slaughterhouses”, points out this association. “This measure will allow greater control of bad practices that may occur in slaughterhouses, in stabling and stunning areas. Likewise, it will facilitate the work of the veterinary inspectors who are permanently in the slaughterhouses monitoring compliance with the legislation”.
In addition, it states that this “initiative arises from the concern of Anice and the slaughterhouse sector for the impact that the few and sporadic bad practices that some did, had on the global image of the sector” and that therefore “it took the initiative to propose to the Spanish authorities that a rule be promoted that would regulate the use of video cameras in certain areas of slaughterhouse facilities, as a tool to support self-monitoring of compliance with animal welfare conditions.