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Welfare at slaughter
Animal welfare ‘a priority’ in most GB slaughterhouses

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THE majority of approved slaughterhouses in Great Britain were found to be operating to good animal welfare standards during a recent round of unannounced inspections by the Food Standards Agency (FSA). The results of the inspections were published by the agency on May 22 and are due to be discussed by the FSA Board at its meeting on June 3.

The FSA says that it completed 306 unannounced animal welfare inspections throughout England, Scotland and Wales in February and March this year. The inspections were prompted by the emergence earlier this year of footage showing apparent cruelty to animals in two slaughterhouses. The FSA reports that 87 per cent (267) of the businesses inspected were operating to good animal welfare standards, but that improvements were needed in 38 businesses (33 in England, two in Scotland and three in Wales). One business in England was found to require urgent improvement.

The FSA reports that commonly occurring areas for improvement included the use of standard operating procedures, verification, documentation and monitoring, and the appointment of animal welfare officers. It also says that, where its visits identified areas for improvement, these had already been identified by Official Veterinarians (OVs) at most premises and were being actively pursued under enforcement programmes.

With regard to the effectiveness of FSA teams at slaughterhouses, the performance was considered good at 294 (96 per cent) of the inspected premises. The agency reports that improvements, most of which were minor, were identified for 12 of the FSA OVs or teams. These improvements related to the need for better records on slaughterers and licensed duties, the need for increased physical checks and better recording of the checks, and clarity on slaughterers' and animal handlers' licensing requirements.

The FSA says it intends to continue and increase its promotion of a zero tolerance approach to animal welfare breaches.

Jason Feeney, the FSA's chief operating officer, said: ‘Our unannounced inspections have shown that animal welfare is a priority for the vast majority of slaughterhouse owners and most of our staff are taking steps to check the right controls are in place. Nevertheless, these inspections have highlighted that there is room for improvement. We will continue to work with businesses and FSA staff to fix any problems as part of our zero tolerance approach to animal welfare breaches.’

The full results from the FSA's unannounced inspections are contained in a paper to be discussed at the FSA Board meeting on June 3. The paper is available at www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/fsa150605.pdf

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