I was delighted to wake up to the headline ‘CCTV At All Abattoirs To Stop Cruelty To Animals’, in the Daily Mail on Friday 11 August. Several of the branch members and I had worked hard on promoting a campaign on this as part of our strategy to boost the farming and fishing industries in our rural constituency of Totnes.
It all began when Sky News showed undercover footage filmed at the Red Lion abattoir in Cheshire in spring 2016, which showed horses being beaten, killed in sight of other horses, and other appalling acts of cruelty. World Horse Welfare called for the suspension of activities at that abattoir and decided to launch a campaign calling for CCTV in every abattoir licensed to slaughter horses.
During hustings last autumn in Torbay, it became clear that many of the members felt UKIP should promote its USPs (Unique Selling Points), and it was also evident that animal welfare is important to many of us. The UKIP manifesto 2015, included the pledge to ‘Install CCTV in every abattoir, monitored by the Meat Hygiene Service, and deal severely with any contraventions.’ So, from October this was one of the several topics that the Totnes branch began to work on.
We encouraged people to sign and share the online Petition Parliament on the issue, and several of us collected signatures on a paper petition to Defra. Our local Tesco’s store kindly let us campaign for a day in its foyer. This garnered 130 signatures. My local veterinary practice held petition forms in the clients’ waiting room and phoned me on a regular basis for ‘top ups’ and we collected signatures from friends and families and at other hustings. In all, we collected an impressive 1,000 of the 43,000 signatures that were collected nationwide. Our long term hope was that once legislation was passed for equine slaughter houses, we could campaign for it to be extended to embrace all animals.
The campaign took a big step forward when Liz Saville Roberts, Plaid Cymru MP, led an early day motion in Westminster Hall on 29 November. It was disappointing that our local MP, Sarah Wollaston, was not one of the 23 MPs who attended although several of us had written to ask her to do so, and one member had had an appointment at her surgery to voice her concerns over the poor standards of animal welfare when being exported live for slaughter and in our own slaughter houses. Still, 23 was a promisingly good ‘rump’ of MPs interested enough in animal welfare issues to attend such a debate.
Progress seemed to grind to a halt when the online petition and paper petition were closed because of the General Election. We feared that we would have to start from scratch.
Maybe it was the media coverage of the Animal Aid undercover film showing the dreadful cruelty at a large Halal slaughter house near Burnley in Lancashire which kept the momentum going for the need for CCTV. Filmed over two days in March of this year it shows sheep having their necks sawed at with blunt knives; being picked up by their fleece and thrown, and animals jumping and fitting having been systematically moved before having enough time to lose consciousness.Perhaps it was the publicity that Animal Aid attracted having secretly filmed at 13 other slaughterhouses over the year showing instances of animals being kicked, punched in the face, given electric shocks and being burnt with cigarettes. Footage from its operation at Forge Farm Meat in Tunbridge Wells in April and May of this year was passed to the Food Standards Agency. Director, Isobel Hutchinson, said, ‘We very much hope that Forge Farm will be brought to justice, and welcome any action that the regulators take in order to achieve this.’
Perhaps it was the publicity that Animal Aid attracted having secretly filmed at 13 other slaughterhouses over the year showing instances of animals being kicked, punched in the face, given electric shocks and being burnt with cigarettes. Footage from its operation at Forge Farm Meat in Tunbridge Wells in April and May of this year was passed to the Food Standards Agency. Director, Isobel Hutchinson, said, ‘We very much hope that Forge Farm will be brought to justice, and welcome any action that the regulators take in order to achieve this.’
Whatever the reasons the Government has announced that it is fulfilling its manifesto pledge of introducing mandatory CCTV throughout all areas where live animals are present in every slaughter house in England and has opened consultation.
Michael Gove, Environment Secretary, stated that this measure would reinforce Britain’s reputation for high standards of animal welfare. This is a big step towards ensuring humane treatment of animals. Mandatory CCTV will assist the Food Standards Agency in their duty of animal welfare enforcement and the CCTV footage will be available for viewing by official vets to ensure compliance with regulations. It could also provide a basis for training slaughterhouse staff, thus improving their competence. This will, in turn, provide reassurance to animal owners that their livestock is being humanely dispatched.
A survey of 900 horse owners indicated that 90% would not use a slaughterhouse to end their horse’s life, but 50% would consider it if they had confidence that their animal’s welfare was assured. It can be very expensive to have a horse put down at home and then meet the disposal costs so only too often owners put the decision off and put their animals ‘out to grass’ when it would be kinder to end their lives. Every animal lover wants assurance of high welfare standards at the end of an animal’s life from the family pony to the farmer’s herd of beef cattle. Every improvement is welcomed.
Of course, there are many other pressing issues. Under EU regulations 2009, animals must be stunned before slaughter. Britain allows an exemption for those who oppose because of religious beliefs. Animal welfare must take priority over religious beliefs. Stun to kill must be the only accepted form of animal slaughter in the UK.
I am sure that most readers will be aware of Hugo Jenks’ recent articles on UKIP Daily. Some may have watched the film he attached to a recent article comparing the humane stun to kill method on a bullock compared to the gross barbarism of the Halal method used on terrified cattle and sheep. The cruelty and suffering imposed on those animals was beyond description.
The Government is currently showing concern for animal welfare to reinforce the country’s status as a global leader in its high standards. Michael 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’. Let us capitalise on this and push for stun to kill in every slaughterhouse, with no exception. Coming back to that UKIP hustings in Torbay last autumn when it came to animal welfare it was Halal, slaughter that caused the most outrage amongst our members. The majority felt it has no place in the UK.