French MP inquiry calls for abattoir video cameras

Sheep in an L214 video Image copyright L214
Image caption A series of undercover videos revealed shocking conditions and mistreatment in some of France's 941 abattoirs

Video surveillance in abattoirs is among measures proposed by a French parliamentary inquiry into slaughterhouse conditions.

The commission said it wanted to "shine a light on the 'black boxes'" that made up France's 941 abattoirs.

The inquiry was launched after a series of secretly filmed videos shocked the French public.

The videos showed animals being treated violently, while rules on hygiene and humane killing were ignored.

Nearly 100 people were interviewed by the commission over four months.

Documentary filmmakers, veterinarians, abattoir managers and owners as well as academics were among those who gave evidence to the inquiry.

Mobile abattoirs

Some of the 30 deputies who made up the commission also made surprise visits to four abattoirs to see conditions for themselves.

The undercover videos that prompted the inquiry were released by animal ethics pressure group L214. The inquiry was also said to be studying ways to improve the working conditions of abattoir employees.

The commission delivered its 255-page report on Tuesday and among the 65 recommendations reported by French media were:

  • Mandatory video monitoring at key sites within abattoirs - though deputies say they are mindful of potential abuses of this tool by employers
  • Full-time veterinary officers in abattoirs with more than 50 employees to counter "the feeling of virtual impunity with which certain abattoir employees go about their work" and make sure regulations are followed
  • Modernisation of abattoir equipment
  • Mobile abattoirs to reduce animal transportation times
  • Improved employee training
  • Setting up a national ethics committee

L214 said it welcomed the inquiry, which it said had "given a life to hundreds of thousands of animals that die each day behind the walls of abattoirs in France". It released more video on Tuesday, showing sheep hanging from chains and struggling after their throats had been cut as part of the ritual slaughter of thousands of animals.

The pressure group argued that the commission had limited itself to superficial measures rather than "immediately practicable solutions" such as reducing consumption of meat and animal products.

It also claimed that electric stunning prior to slaughter was unambiguously backed by scientists and veterinarians.

Stunning has been obligatory in the EU since 1979 but most countries make exceptions for religious communities.

Under halal (Islamic) and shechita (Jewish) rules, an animal's throat must be cut quickly with a sharp knife while still conscious.

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