CCTV is to become mandatory in all slaughterhouses in England in a bid to ensure animal welfare and to reassure consumers.
Breaches of the rules could see slaughterhouses slapped with a welfare enforcement notice, the suspension of licences or even referral for a criminal investigation.
The president of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) welcomed the move as helping to foster a "culture of compassion" for animals.
The government also said standards for farm animals and domestic pets would be raised.
The environment secretary Michael Gove said the move would "cement the UK's position as a global leader on animal welfare".
Food Standards Agency vets will be granted unrestricted access to footage of all areas containing livestock.
Welcoming the move, the president of the BVA, Gudrun Ravetz, said: "Mandatory CCTV in all areas of slaughterhouses will provide an essential tool in fostering a culture of compassion that could help safeguard animal welfare and we are particularly pleased to see a commitment to official veterinarians having unrestricted access to footage, which BVA has been calling for."
"Vets' independence and unique qualifications help ensure that the UK will continue to have the highest standards of animal health, welfare and food safety," he added.