The south west’s largest horse rescue charity has welcomed government plans to make CCTV compulsory in all animal slaughterhouses.

Simon Avery, the managing director of the Mare & Foal Sanctuary said the move to introduce the cameras would help improve the conditions of the animals that end up in the food chain.

“We welcome the government’s move. Horses are sensitive, flight or fright animals and we know how terrified they become in any stressful situation.

“Having cameras in slaughterhouses will make it much harder for offenders to flout the UK’s animal welfare laws.

“We know some slaughterhouses do their very best to minimise distress wherever possible and these were amongst the first to voluntarily adopt CCTV. If this new plan becomes law, the rest, who have refused to adopt cameras, will have to follow their example, which has to be good for all animals as well as the industry’s reputation."

Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced from next spring all abattoirs will be made to install cameras in an attempt to clamp down on mistreatment.

The footage will be accessible to Food Standards Agency vets, who will highlight cases in which animals are poorly treated. Those responsible could lose their license or face prosecution.

Mr Avery added: “If the FSA find monitoring the footage difficult with limited resources, perhaps they may allow UK animal welfare organisations to help review them? Surely it’s in the interests of all to remove the barriers of secrecy?”

The move follows a number of disturbing videos appearing online showing slaughterhouse staff abusing animals, including footage of people punching, kicking and stamping on animals.

The Sanctuary, which has five farms in Devon, currently owns more than 340 rescue horses and ponies, with more than 170 in loans homes throughout the South West.