Can abattoirs meet our animal welfare expectations?

Posted on August 09, 2017 by Gudrun Ravetz

A good death for food production animals is ultimately dependent on the abattoir.

BVA alongside our specialist division the Veterinary Public Health Association (VPHA) have talked about the necessary culture of compassion within abattoirs, and as part of this 24-hour CCTV with unrestricted access for OVs. Our evidence based stance call for all animals to be stunned before slaughter. With these BVA priorities in mind, JVP John Fishwick and I visited a lamb abattoir in Wales.

Welfare in focus

We saw stunned slaughter for the halal market; were able to see the calm progress of the lambs from the lairage to slaughter, witness the processing and packaging of the carcass, and meet staff. The whole visit showed professionalism, innovation and an unwavering focus on the welfare of the lambs and this led to a process that enabled a good death. A culture of compassion was visible and palpable at every level. 24-hour CCTV has been present for many years in this abattoir, the OV has unrestricted access and it is used as a positive management tool.

Animal Welfare Strategy

As we set out in our Animal Welfare Strategy, launched last February, we are an animal welfare focussed profession and so believe that all animals should have a good life and a humane death. Vets are vital to achieving this.

The Official Veterinarian we met was integral to the abattoir. She was obviously respected and the vital role that she played in the success of high welfare within this plant was visible. Independent yet part of the team.

Brexit and the profession

Witnessing the processing of the carcasses, it was interesting to assess the variety of geographical markets that could be targeted by each part of the carcass. Taking advantage of international markets is critical in order to avoid wastage, and these are markets that are unlikely to be replaced by domestic consumption unless the UK consumer radically changes their meat preferences. An important consideration, which could effect producers, as we move towards EU exit and the mapping out of trade agreements – as highlighted in our Brexit and the veterinary profession report (page 32).

A thriving business that has tight margins and where we rightly demand a culture of compassion may be a tough ask. But what we witnessed during our visit was leadership that allowed for all of us this: a real focus on welfare, the development of the people that make the business and a constant desire to innovate and progress.  A lesson that is relevant to all of us and all parts of the food chain.

Gudrun Ravetz

Written by Gudrun Ravetz

BVA past President

Gudrun currently works as a Veterinary Consultant for Denplan and is an interviewer for prospective students at University of Liverpool. Gudrun was previously President of the Society for Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS). Follow @RavetzGudrun on Twitter.