CCTV will cover all English slaughterhouses to boost animal welfare credentials
CCTV is to become mandatory in all slaughterhouses in England under plans to safeguard animal welfare and reassure consumers.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove said the proposals would "cement the UK's position as a global leader on animal welfare" by giving the Food Standards Agency's official veterinarians - those who monitor and enforce standards - unrestricted access to footage of all areas containing livestock.
Any breaches by a slaughterhouse can result in a welfare enforcement notice, the suspending or revoking of staff licences or referral for a criminal investigation.
The Government also said it would raise standards for farm animals and domestic pets by updating statutory animal welfare codes to reflect advancements in medicines, technology and the latest research and advice from vets.
The first to be updated will cover chickens bred for meat, followed by laying hens, pigs, dogs, cats and horses over the next year.
Mr Gove said: "We have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and the actions I am setting out today will reinforce our status as a global leader.
"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."
British Veterinary Association president Gudrun Ravetz said: "Mandatory CCTV in all areas of slaughterhouses will provide an essential tool in fostering a culture of compassion that could help safeguard animal welfare and we are particularly pleased to see a commitment to official veterinarians having unrestricted access to footage, which BVA has been calling for.
"Vets' independence and unique qualifications help ensure that the UK will continue to have the highest standards of animal health, welfare and food safety."
Food Standards Agency chairman Heather Hancock said: "Last year, we concluded that it was time to make CCTV compulsory in slaughterhouses, progress on voluntary adoption having plateaued.
"I and the board of the FSA warmly welcome Defra's consultation about making CCTV mandatory.
"We look forward to the introduction of a comprehensive requirement for using, accessing and retaining footage from CCTV in abattoirs.
"We see CCTV as an invaluable management tool for business owners to help with compliance with official controls and to improve animal welfare standards across the industry."