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Welfare of Farmed Animals at Slaughter or Killing: Part 1: Red Meat Animals

by 5m Editor
22 June 2003, at 12:00am

By the Farm Animal Welfare Council - FAWC was established in 1979. Its terms of reference are to keep under review the welfare of farm animals on agricultural land, at market, in transit and at the place of slaughter; and to advise Great Britain’s Rural Affairs Ministers of any legislative or other changes that may be necessary. The Council has the freedom to consider any topic falling within this remit.

Foreward

Since FAWC last considered the welfare of farmed animals at slaughter in the mid 1980’s, there have been major changes in the structure of farming but perhaps even more so in the structure of the slaughter industry.

The decline in the number of slaughterhouses noted in our 1985 report has continued. The year 1995 saw the introduction of the Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations (commonly known as WASK) with, at the same time, the creation of the Meat Hygiene Service and the requirement for an Official Veterinary Surgeon (OVS) to be present in all slaughterhouses.

We have seen new technologies introduced for stunning and killing and much new research that has advanced our understanding of animal welfare during the slaughter process. Likewise, much has been learned in recent years about design features for slaughterhouses that can have great benefit for the welfare of the animals being handled and processed.

Species that were not farmed in large numbers in the 1980’s, such as deer, ostrich and wild boar, are now being produced for human consumption and deserve special consideration to assure their welfare at slaughter.

The recent outbreaks of exotic diseases in the UK (Classical Swine Fever in 2000 and Foot and Mouth Disease in 2001) have highlighted the welfare problems involved in slaughtering large numbers of animals over short periods outside the controlled environment of the slaughterhouse. In addition, consumers rightly expect safe meat in the face of a number of zoonotic diseases, such as BSE and E.coli 0157. However, the achievement of these high safety standards must not be at the expense of welfare.

All these issues and many more are addressed in this report and we make a number of significant recommendations. These include the phasing out of the use of aversive gases as a means of stunning pigs, the use of improvement notices as enforcement sanctions, restriction on the presentation of horned cattle at slaughterhouses, the need for a system of approval for slaughter equipment and the need for periodic re-assessment of the competence of those holding slaughter licences.

Some of our recommendations can be adopted simply by changes to working practices. Others will require changes to the legislation. In each case we have tried to make it clear whose responsibility we believe it is to take the recommended action and what specifically needs to be done.

We recognise there may be strong reactions to our recommendations with regard to slaughter of animals without pre-stunning both from the religious groups affected and from the wider animal welfare community. Our recommendations are based upon our concern for the welfare of the animals involved. We make no moral judgement. I sincerely hope that attention is not drawn away from the overall value of the report and the many significant recommendations which we make for the benefit of all animals which are slaughtered for human consumption.

Dr Judy MacArthur Clark
Chairwoman of FAWC

CONTENTS

Chairwoman’s foreword

PART I: INTRODUCTION

FAWC’s philosophy
Specific slaughter issues
Remit and methodology

PART II: BACKGROUND

Structure of the slaughter industry
Meat Hygiene Service
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1
2
3

5

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PART III: THE WELFARE ISSUES

1. Design, construction and operation of the slaughterhouse

Unloading

General
Arrival at the slaughterhouse
Design of unloading area
Inspection of animals
Isolation pens, procedures for casualty animals and emergency slaughter
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7

7

7
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9
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Lairage

General
Time spent in the lairage
Lairage capacity
Lairage layout
Lairage floors
Noise in the lairage
Ventilation in the lairage
Provision of feed and water in the lairage
Space allowance in the lairage
Mixing of livestock in the lairage
Showering pigs
Field lairages
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2. Handling of animals prior to stunning

General
Design of pre-slaughter handling systems
Handling for identification
Handling to fulfil the requirements of the clean livestock policy
Handling aids and goads
Horned cattle
Handling of cattle before stunning
Handling and restraint of sheep and pigs before stunning
Group stunning pens
Restrainer/conveyers
Pre-slaughter handling of pigs in gas killing systems
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3. Stunning and killing

General
System of approval for stunning/killing equipment
Maintenance of equipment
Monitoring of stunning
Back up systems
Gas stunning/killing of pigs
Carbon dioxide and alternative gas mixtures
Captive-bolt stunning
Electrical stunning/killing
Head only electrical stunning
Tong positions
Equipment specification
Failsafe systems
Electrical stunning/killing systems for cattle
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4. Slaughter

Slaughter without pre-stunning
Background
Pre-slaughter handling
Pain and distress during exsanguination
Time to loss of brain responsiveness

Bleeding procedures
General
Stunning to bleeding intervals
Bleeding practices
Pithing
Assessment of unconsciousness
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5. Mass killing for exotic disease control

6. On-farm slaughter or killing

General
Casualty and emergency slaughter
Private slaughter
Mobile slaughterhouses
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7. Slaughter of deer

8. Slaughter of ostriches

9. Slaughter of wild boar

10. Slaughter of horses

11. Licensing, training and staffing

Licensing system
Training
Staffing
Animal Welfare Officers
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12. Legislation and enforcement

Legislation
Enforcement
Enforcement sanctions
Training of enforcement staff
Level of veterinary supervision

13. Research, development and technology transfer

Summary of recommendations

Appendix A - Membership of the Farm Animal Welfare Council
Appendix B - Those who gave evidence and assistance
Appendix C - Glossary
Appendix D - Animal welfare assessment system for slaughterhouses
Appendix E - Contact details
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To read the complete PDF document - Click Here

Source: Farm Animal Welfare Council - June 2003