Many of our major supermarkets – including the likes of Morrisons, M&S, Waitrose, Co-op and Sainsbury’s – have all promised that CCTV images captured in slaghterhouses / abattoirs will be independently monitored as called for by the charity Animal Aid. This follows a campaign last year by the charity involving undercover filming of alleged brutality in slaughterhouses.
Tim Smith, Chief Executive of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), which regulates abattoirs, said last year that the images filmed by Animal Aid were “sickening”.He did not condone the methods that campaigners had used – allegedly trespassing on abattoirs and planting small, fly-on-the wall cameras – but Smith acknowledged that the charity had triggered a rethink on abattoirs.
Now I’m certainly in no way against the use of technology to ensure the appropriate welfare of every creature is treated appropriately – but are we forgetting about the humans in this scenario?
The way in which the footage showed those animals being inhumanely slaughtered was terrible and I for one knew that something needed to be done and quickly. However like many incidents that have been identified throughout different sectors I look at this proposed fast resolution and I suggest that this could just be a quick-fix in an attempt to fix a larger problem!
Whatever the proposed solution – it must be managed correctly and legally.So let’s assume that CCTV is the answer which I can see as being an approach that may work.
Who is carrying out independent assessments on the systems to ensure that they are compliant with data protection legislation regarding the image (data) management? From CameraWatch’s vast and varied experience of CCTV systems throughout the UK, far too many systems have not even been assessed for data protection compliance in accordance with the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) CCTV Code of Practice.
Most systems do not meet the legal requirement and some – a good number unfortunately – even fail purely on thinking they record for 31 days when they actually record for as little as 3 days. Where is the public confidence there? So a basic question coming up – when the decision was taken to install these systems did the Data Controllers (do they even know that they need one and who they are?) ensure that they made it fully legal with the compliance requirements of data protection?
Did they take steps to protect the employees who do the job properly and preserve their Human Rights? For instance – and a very simple example which is so easy to get right – do you know that at least one of the “BIG 5” supermarkets has not even registered suitably with the Information Commissioners Office for the use of CCTV? Unfortunately it is a knee jerk reaction like this that gives CCTV a bad reputation.
There are so many examples of organisations rushing to install CCTV as the all encompassing magic wand to all their woes….like schools using CCTV for smokers outside the grounds or in toilets because soap is being nicked, like fishing vessels installing CCTV to manage quotas etc. As I’ve said numerous times, CameraWatch is all for the use of CCTV as a device for many applications outwith than for just crime but it must be done correctly and legally.
So going back to my point, are we really ensuring the rights of every creature in these abattoirs? I’m afraid that I can’t give an affirmative on that as it certainly would appear that the deployment of CCTV into slaughterhouses has been done in breach of the Data Protection Act. It also means that by not doing this in accordance with the law, any charges brought against a person through use of the CCTV images can be challenged before court and during court proceedings. It then opens the opportunity for anyone who is captured on these CCTV systems to take legal action against the Data Controller of the CCTV systems in question. The illegal capture of data (the images from the system are people’s personal data) is a major CameraWatch concern in this situation.
Of course it’s not all doom and gloom because these matters can be resolved to ensure that they meet the necessary requirements of the law, simply by undertaking a full assessment of the current systems (in accordance with CameraWatch standards and the Information Commissioners Office CCTV Code of Practice) and applying the changes required to ensure that the data (image) capture is lawful and, as importantly, that the system actually protects and improves the standards as it has set out to do.
Waitrose stated that there had been “absolutely no suggestion of poor animal welfare” at any of its dozen suppliers and that signing up with Animal Aid was not difficult because it had “nearly full coverage anyway” and only need to install “a couple of extra CCTV cameras at a couple of processors”. And may I ask a simple question here…….. if Waitrose have no reason to install these extra cameras then why are they doing so? One of the first requirements of the Information Commissioners CCTV Code of Practice is to justify the use of CCTV and decide the actual reasons for that CCTV system. If they had assessed the situation and agreed that there is not any issue which requires the application of CCTV then legally they should not install them. Do I really need to ask the question then – why has more CCTV been installed? The Unison trade union, which provides a representation of meat inspectors and vets in slaughterhouses, said it would wait to see if the introduction of CCTV had a positive or negative impact on workers. They stated that they did not think it’s use would tackle the main problems it saw in abattoirs, which were “too fast a line-speed, which makes thorough inspections impossible”, too few inspections, and dirty carcasses making it through the production line.Only earlier this month we saw treble figures of employees protest in public in the city centre against Derry City Council due to the incorrect use of CCTV systems. This was based on, dare I say it, the misuse of the public space CCTV system which the whole public depend on. Are we being too hopeful that the same situation does not happen in a city near you in the near future ..…..I fear not.Following CameraWatch contact with the FSA their response was that: “The FSA is an enforcement body with veterinary and inspection presence in abattoirs as required by legislation. Under current legislation the FSA cannot enforce abattoir operators to install CCTV although it is actively encouraging them to do so for animal welfare purposes. Any decision to install CCTV will be taken by the abattoir operator. As mandatory installation will require a change of legislation, there is currently no need for the FSA to consider any compliance issues in respect of CCTV”Hey – does this by any chance seem familiar to local authorities licensing boards’ instructions to licencees with regard to selling alcohol……may I suggest that there is a major problem ready to explode. Clearly the FSA understand the need to improve the ability to check that slaughtering of animals is being done humanely but it appears that they also understand the practicalities of enforcing the use of CCTV in abattoirs can’t be done just by the installation of a number of cameras. It appears however the “BIG 5” supermarket chains have taken onboard the concerns of the wider public with regard to Animal Rights and quite correctly but have they ignored or perhaps not understood the legal implications of Human Rights which from which data protection legislation is derived? The fact remains that the public relations of today’s buyers and the press ensure that the job gets done regardless of the issues that may spawn from the original issue as long as it’s not being thought of or spoken of then it can be remedied later. From a CameraWatch viewpoint we believe that there was a need to change and develop systems that ensure that these processes were undertaken appropriately. However, we need to also see that the application of CCTV Surveillance and CCTV Monitoring are undertaken in the same lawful manner. How can you justify the use of an illegal system to monitor illegal activities? A question I often ask at presentations……If you invest money and time in ensuring that you implement a Compliant CCTV system you must ensure that it meet the relevant legal requirements. Currently we have found that there are concerns over how this system has been put in place and we welcome the opportunity of working with all of the major supermarkets in order to ensure that whatever CCTV solution is proposed will actually do what it is supposed to do in a legal manner and will not bear a threat of non-compliance managed and operated illegally. As always, CameraWatch continues to support the use of CCTV systems so long as they meet their legal requirements under the Data Protection Act.