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France to install CCTV in abattoirs after animal slaughter scandals

PASCAL LACHENAUD / AFP | Protesters lie in the street with placards during a demonstration called by animal rights association L214 to protest against animal abuse, notably the slaughtering of pregnant cows, on November 26, 2016.

French lawmakers voted on Thursday to introduce surveillance cameras in abattoirs throughout France after the release of a damning report exposing animal cruelty on the facilities.

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France’s parliament backed the draft bill to install CCTV in more than 250 abattoirs across the country "in areas where the animals are delivered, kept, immobilised, stunned, and slaughtered".

 

The vote comes after a 225-page parliamentary report released in March recommended a number of measures to "improve transparency and the inadequate controls" at slaughterhouses.

The government called for the report after a series of videos filmed by L214, an animal rights group, showed workers in French abattoirs inflicting extreme acts of cruelty on animals.

Some workers were depicted throwing a lamb against a wall, repeatedly bashing sheep over the head and decapitating a cow while it was still conscious.

If the law is approved by the Senate, France could become the first country in Europe to have mandatory CCTV cameras monitoring animal welfare in abattoirs, although they are used voluntarily in some countries like the UK.

Many animal rights lobbyists have hailed the decision as a step in the right direction but some say it may amount to little more than a symbolic gesture.

“Compulsory CCTV does not solve animal cruelty. What we want is more controls especially around the ‘stunning of animals’, Leopoldine Charbonneaux, director of Compassion in World Farming told FRANCE 24.

"Stunning is when the animal is made unconscious so when you cut its throat it doesn’t feel pain.

“These problems aren’t new, it’s just that they’re revealed to the public via social media. The lack of training of staff who handle the animals is also creating unnecessary suffering -- even cruelty,” Charbonneaux added. 

Opponents of CCTV including the union representing abattoir workers, Meat Culture, say that "animal protection at slaughterhouses cannot be guaranteed by cameras", but by "men, training and common sense".

Dominique Langlois, who heads Interbev, a national association for livestock professionals told AFP that he was not hostile to the idea of trialling CCTV but that he “believes more in the relevance of trained veterinary monitors than in a video surveillance system”.

Charbonneaux, however, is hopeful the measure will become law, largely because of a growing shift in public opinion.

“There’s a lot of citizen pressure. The French public is prepared to pay more for higher welfare products but it’s not so visible in sales,” she said.

She said she would like to see vets and more controls at the slaughter level.

The Senate is expected to vote on the proposal when it meets in February. If it is approved it will be rolled out from 1 January 2018 following a trial phase this year.

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