Covert surveillance in the meat industry - Emotive activism

Why is covert surveillance of importance to the meat industry?

The answer relates to three different things that have happened over the last several years:

  1. Emotive activism has grown rapidly, especially around animal welfare;
  2. The cost and size of covert surveillance equipment (including mobile phones) has continued to shrink while easy online purchasing has grown;
  3. YouTube - the ability to instantly upload a video that can be viewed by millions of people around the world.

What does this mean to the meat industry?

  1. Don’t think you will keep emotive activists out of your works. They will be there and often as new workers.
  2. Don’t think by keeping mobile phones out of sensitive areas you will stop covert recording. The equipment can be well hidden.
  3. If you have a “bad apple” doing something wrong in your works, it is a matter of time before their actions end up on YouTube.

What does some of the covert surveillance equipment look like?

$36.99 from Amazon

Camera 1 Camera 2 Camera 3

What shapes and sizes do they come in?

Camera 4 Camera 5 Camera 6

What about Drones?

From $100 to $10,000. This one is a $3,000 Quadcopter and is used commercial for video surveillance.


How does convert surveillance equipment work?

There are basically two types in use:

  1. Video/ audio recorders. These have an inbuilt or removal memory card that records what they see and hear. This type of technology is very useful where the recording is taking place in remote or RF shielded location (like cold rooms). The downside is that the memory card needs to be removed from the device to access the video/ audio.
  2. Video/ audio transmitters. These have inbuilt wireless transmitters that transmit the video and audio in real time to a receiver. The value of this type of technology is the ability to have unattended equipment continually broadcasting video and audio. This is often set up by someone bringing the equipment in and placing it in a suitable hidden location. The equipment starts transmitting and someone outside of the build is recording the video/ audio that is transmitted. Depending on the wireless technology this can be from 100meter to a few kilometres. If the technology is web based and they have hacked your wireless network the video can be seen anywhere around the world.

There is also the combination of the two types that both record and transmit at the same time. This has the advantage that if the transmitter is blocked the video/ audio is still be recorded.

How much skill is required to use convert surveillance equipment?

  • If you can use a smart phone you can setup and use convert surveillance equipment.
  • Many of the low cost systems are designed for “Plug and Play” type applications. You pair the camera with your phone, mount the camera and it will then be send video and audio through the internet around the world.

Examples of when it goes wrong:

What can you do to not be a target?

  • "Beat them at their own game" - Place video surveillance in all sensitive areas that monitor and record work practice.
  • Display the video in the office so it is highly visible.
  • Any "Bad Apples" will know they are being recorded and that people are watching.
  • Knowing people are watching will modify people's behaviour.
  • Increase training using video as feedback.
  • Having video showing how something should be done and how it should not be done is a powerful training tool.
  • Worker performance monitoring using video.
  • Where workers know their performance is being recorded allows for one on one discussion on work practice and behaviour.
  • You can't argue with what is recorded on video and audio.
  • Use video for audit records for compliance reporting.