L. A. GÓMEZ

All abattoirs in Spain will have cameras to ensure that animals are treated correctly

Spain is the first country in the EU to implement this control system, which will be mandatory within one year for large businesses and two for smaller enterprises

ALFONSO TORICES Madrid

All slaughterhouses in Spain, whether large or small, industrial or traditional, must install a complete video surveillance system in their facilities within a few months. The objective is to guarantee that during all phases of the process, the industry and its employees treat the animals correctly and strictly comply with the regulations for a slaughter that is compatible with animal welfare and food safety.

The measure will allow effective controls by inspectors to stamp out situations of animal cruelty in slaughterhouses such as those that are reported from time to time on websites and social media networks, with horrifying images obtained by organisations or individuals, usually secretly.

The Cabinet approved a royal decree law on Tuesday that obliges the approximately 2,800 slaughterhouses in Spain, many of them small and family-owned, to install permanent cameras and recording equipment throughout the premises. The largest businesses will have one year to comply with the requirements of the law and the smallest a maximum of two. The only limit will be to respect the privacy of the workers, so the capture of images from changing rooms, toilets and dining rooms or rest areas will be excluded.

The system must guarantee that all the recording hours of all the cameras are saved so that the relevant checks can be carried out later by the inspectors and also that the images can be downloaded or transferred to monitors, hard drives and other digital formats.

Transport conditions

The cameras will not only be in the slaughter zones. Video surveillance aims to ensure animal welfare from the arrival of the animals to the facilities until their slaughter and butchering, including unloading, transfer, introduction into pens and the stunning processes prior to death.

It places special emphasis on the unloading area, since the images will allow inspectors to check under what conditions the animals were transported and if care was taken that they were not injured when unloading them. There is a second specification for handling poultry and pigs. There must be cameras that record the scalding process (which facilitates plucking and shaving). The idea is that they allow inspectors to verify that animals that are not still alive when subjected to those operations.

It is a pioneering regulation. The royal decree promoted by Alberto Garzón will make Spain the first country in the European Union to establish an enforced video surveillance system in this activity. In Europe, only the United Kingdom has a similar level of requirement. The Spanish government is also preparing another regulation with the same purpose to implement video surveillance systems in laboratories and centres that conduct experiments with animals.

The approved law tries to guarantee animal welfare in a sector with a large throughput and economic weight in Spain. In the country, more than 900 million animals are slaughtered every year, the vast majority of them, some 828 million, are birds. Also figuring high on the abattoir lists are pigs, with 53 million slaughtered, rabbits (41 million), and the two million cows, bulls and oxen that are killed to feed the food industry.