The French national assembly passed a bill for mandatory cameras in slaughterhouses today. The controversial measure, to be implemented in 2018, follows a remarkable intensification of public outcry after a series of shocking undercover investigations were released to the French media by local animal rights organization L214. The vote to monitor slaughterhouse practices and workers for animal cruelty, safety and hygiene violations passed 28 to 4 (opponents of the bill were from the right and center political parties).
Before it is brought to the senate in March to be debated and voted into law, the measure will be implemented first (by July 2017) through “experimentation,” in 263 slaughterhouses, placing cameras in all areas where animals are “moved, held, immobilized, stunned and killed.”
Stakeholders, including animal protection professionals, slaughterhouse management and government officials might have “limited” access to the footage to determine how to craft the final legislation. 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.
According to a study conducted by IFOP, the French government public opinion institute, 85 percent of French citizens approve of video surveillance in slaughterhouses.
Animal rights advocates pitted against “ailing” agricultural workers
The French government, subtly bending to pressure from powerful animal agriculture lobby groups, wants the “initial opportunity to evaluate the current conditions” ahead of passing a final legislation brought forth by socialist Olivier Falorni, titled “respect for the animal in slaughterhouses law.”
During the debate session earlier today, Minister of Agriculture Stephane LeFoll invoked the “farmers’ crisis” and “respect for slaughterhouse workers” in order to assuage the growing anger of agricultural workers — men who have indulged in media-hungry stunts by dumping truckloads of manure in front of ministries, blocking traffic with trucks, burning tires and hanging pigs from highway overpasses. The agriculture unions are pushing for further government relief for “Made in France” meat and dairy products while they battle waning meat sales, low milk and meat prices and push for higher wages, higher prices and an end to “unfair” competition from other countries. Animal rights, environmental and progressive healthcare advocates want an end to meat and dairy government subsidies and want public money to be spent promoting the production of sustainable, healthy, plant based food.
The new law includes an independent commission, a national slaughterhouse ethics committee and comes loaded with stiff penalties for animal cruelty violations — 6 to 12 months of prison and fines from 7500 to 20,000 Euros ($8000 to $21,000).
L214 has gained legitimacy in France by conducting risky undercover investigations to expose just how wide-spread and routine shocking incidents of cruelty to animals are. The organization has exposed footage of animals being tormented, brutalized and butchered by callous workers while still alive.
Several weeks ago, a dozen activists from 269Life Liberation Animale(claims that this bill doesn’t go nearly far enough), were arrested after breaking into a slaughterhouse to “witness the killing” and to stop the production line. They stood their ground on the killing floor for several hours, cameras rolling, before they were removed by police.
Animal rights protests are attracting increasingly large crowds in Paris, Nice and Lyon, helping make France one of the leading countries where animal protection is considered an important social justice cause linked to environmental efforts to limit climate change.
If transparency becomes law and the public can see the suffering behind slaughterhouse walls, maybe, animal protection advocates hope, French people will take cruelty off their plates and switch to a healthier plant-based diet.
Update: A statement by L214 was released 13.01, decrying the limits imposed on viewership of footage from video surveillance in slaughterhouses. The organization states on its FaceBook page that “animals will continue to suffer” and that only members of government veterinary services and management of slaughterhouses will have access to important evidence of the cruelty animals must endure in slaughterhouses. Several more French animal rights organizations, including 269Life Liberation Animale, have echoed this deep disappointment, reacting with disgust at the fact that hundreds of lawmakers did not even show up at the National Assembly to participate in the debate on the floor.