In a controversial and unprecedented move, French parliamentarians voted in favor of mandatory video surveillance inside slaughterhouses. The vote passed 28-4 and must still clear French Senate before becoming law in 2018.
The meat-loving country suffered humiliation last year when several undercover videos obtained by numerous animal rights groups revealed abuses and improper slaughter in some of the nation’s nearly 1,000 slaughterhouses. Stunning animals before killing them—a widespread industry practice–is required under French law.
“These are obviously some very shocking images,” animal rights group L214 spokesperson Sébastien Arsac told The Local of the group’s video, “but they’re not the first of their kind, unfortunately.”
The leaked videos were not only enough to catch the attention of French officials, but also its citizens–a recent study revealed 85 percent of French citizens support the use of video cameras in slaughterhouses.
Under the proposed law, all areas of slaughterhouses where humans handle animals would require constant video surveillance. The videos would be reviewable by veterinarians and animal welfare authorities to verify proper humane treatment and allow for legal action should abuse or improper slaughters occur.
The new law will require an independent commission and a national slaughterhouse ethics committee would be formed, and penalties for violating the law could include up to 12 months in prison along with steep fines up to $21,000 (€20,000). Before it goes to a senate vote, the proposed law will be tested in 263 slaughterhouses across France.
French parliament set up a special committee last spring after the undercover videos showed excessive animal cruelty, and the country’s Agriculture Ministry ordered a nationwide investigation and inspection of its slaughterhouses, which produce some 3.45 million tons of meat annually.
But the victory has complications for animal rights activists, “animal protection advocates are preparing for an uphill battle ahead of debate in Parliament against the dominant agriculture lobby, a major economic sector in France,” reports Medium. There may be limited access for some government officials and animal welfare industry representative in access to or viewing the footage if the livestock industry is successful in its influence of government officials.
And the bill would not reduce animal slaughter–at least not immediately. According to L214, one of the groups that leaked videos, it’s certainly a start, but it won’t go far enough, “the animals will continue to suffer,” the group wrote on a Facebook post.
“Three million animals are killed in the chain every day in slaughterhouses of France. Electrocuted, gassed, stunned at the pistol or slaughtered without stunning. Let us not forget.”
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