The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published its findings after a recent review of animal welfare standards in slaughterhouses.

The FSA carried out a series of unannounced inspections of slaughterhouses after footage was released earlier this year of apparent cruelty to animals in two slaughterhouses.

In relation to the effectiveness of animal welfare safeguards, businesses and FSA teams were assessed either as good, improvement required, or urgent improvement required.

Business operator effectiveness

The results from the inspections that took place back in February and March found that the standards of 268 businesses were good, 38 businesses needed improvement; with one business in England requiring urgent improvement. 

It is an EU requirement that businesses appoint suitably trained and qualified Animal Welfare Officers (AWO) to ensure that Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) are devised and implemented, and animal welfare rules are properly understood, applied and reviewed. Those areas identified as being in need of improvement were generally in relation to the appointment of these officers.

Other areas that were identified were a lack of SOP’s; 73 slaughterhouses were found to have no SOPs in use, and 42 premises still required an AWO to be appointed. In addition, there were issues relating to the documentation and monitoring in that the information being captured was insufficient to assist in consumer choice when it came arriving at a decision about the animal welfare of a particular slaughterhouse.

FSA performance effectiveness

FSA performance was considered good at 294 premises (96%). Improvements (mostly minor) were identified for 12 of the FSA official veterinarians/teams. The most commonly identified areas for improvement were records on slaughters and their licensing, and the need for increased physical checks and better recording of these checks.

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 of 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”.