Welfare at slaughter

64% of UK vets chose welfare at slaughter or pre-stunning as a top priority for government according to the Spring 2015 Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey.

In addition to this, 9 out of 10 vets believe consumers should be better informed about slaughter methods.

We have developed positions on the following:

We also have a related policy position on transporting animals to slaughter

Non-stun slaughter

What is non-stun slaughter

EU regulation on the Protection of animals at the time of Killing and UK Welfare of Time at Killing (WATOK) legislation require that all livestock are stunned before slaughter to render them insensible to pain at the time of killing, also known as ‘stun slaughter.’

However, EU and UK legislation allows an exemption for animals that are slaughtered for food intended for the consumption of Jewish and Muslim communities. Some of these communities allow stunning before slaughter, others do not. In circumstances where stunning is not permitted, this is known as ‘non-stun slaughter.’

BVA position on non-stun slaughter

We believe that all animals should be stunned before slaughter. Read our full position on non-stun slaughter (PDF 25 KB).

If slaughter without stunning is still to be permitted:

  • any meat or fish from this source must be clearly labelled to enable consumers to fully understand the choice they are making when purchasing such products
  • immediate post-cut stunning offers a valid means of reducing the suffering of animals at slaughter - although the option of post-cut stunning is not equivalent to pre-cut stunning it presents a highly desirable refinement
  • where an immediate post-cut stun is applied, we believe that the requirement for sheep/goats to remain stationary for a minimum period of 20 seconds is unnecessary as stunning renders the animal immediately unconscious and insensible to pain
  • the supply of non-stun products should be matched with demand

    BBC Three Counties Radio - Sean Wensley talks about non-stun slaughter 04.11.15 by Britishvets on Mixcloud

    How can consumers be better informed about slaughter methods and overall welfare from farm to fork?

    BVA is calling for all meat or fish derived from non-stun slaughter to be clearly labelled to enable consumers to fully understand the choice that they are making when purchasing such products. However, whilst mandatory method of slaughter labelling is not legislated for, we would encourage consumers to look for:

    Farm assurance schemes

    Farm Assurance schemes allow producers to demonstrate that their food products, both animal and non-animal derived, have met specific, independently certified standards at each stage of the supply chain from ‘farm to fork’. These standards include, but are not limited to, animal health and welfare, food safety and welfare at slaughter, including ensuring animals are stunned before slaughter.

    Farm assurance schemes therefore enable customers, as citizens, to make sustainable and ethically informed choices about the food products they buy and the impact of these products on animal health and welfare.

    Advice from the veterinary profession

    The veterinary profession has a key role to play in informing and educating the public with regard to the value and provenance of animal derived food. As such, BVA has a responsibility to assist members to understand different farm assurance schemes and to signpost the public, in a professional and ethically justifiable way, towards those that promote higher animal health and welfare from farm to fork.

    With this in mind BVA has developed  a position on farm assurance schemes and 7 guiding principles to inform consumers in their choice of farm assured products. As part of this, we are encouraging consumers to consider whether the scheme requires pre-stunning, what requirements, if any, there are in relation to transport to slaughter and if the scheme provides lifetime assurance from point of birth to death.

    Farm assurance schemes

    The veterinary profession has a key role to play in informing and educating the public with regard to the value and provenance of animal derived food. As such, BVA has a responsibility to assist members to understand different farm assurance schemes and to signpost the public, in a professional and ethically justifiable way, towards those that promote higher animal health and welfare.

    With this in mind BVA has developed a position on farm assurance schemes and 7 guiding principles to inform consumers in their choice of farm assured products. As part of this, we are encouraging consumers to consider whether the scheme requires pre-stunning, what requirements, if any, there are in relation to transport to slaughter and if the scheme provides lifetime assurance from point of birth to death.

    CCTV in slaughterhouses

    BVA position on CCTV in slaughter houses

    We believe all slaughterhouses should install CCTV in all areas where live animals are kept and killed.

    However, it is important to be clear that whilst CCTV footage checks are a valuable additional measure for enforcement, they must not reduce or replace the physical monitoring and verification of animal welfare and meat hygiene requirements that OVs currently undertake.

    View our full policy position on CCTV in slaughterhouses (90 KB PDF) which we developed in 2015 with the Veterinary Public Health Association (VPHA).

    Why is it important to have CCTV in slaughterhouses?

    We strongly support compulsory CCTV recording in slaughterhouses in all areas where live animals are present, with unrestricted access to real time and stored footage for Official Veterinarians. CCTV is a useful tool in helping to ensure that legal requirements are met and high animal welfare standards are maintained. The introduction of mandatory CCTV in all slaughterhouses will:

    • Increase opportunities to observe and verify handling of animals
    • Increase opportunities to observe and verify the proper application of the stun and slaughter process
    • Increase opportunities to protect the food chain and public health
    • Contribute to increased consumer confidence that food business operators are taking all necessary steps to prioritise, assess and address animal welfare issues
    • Provide a valuable training tool for slaughterhouse staff to promote best practice and compliance with legislative and commercial standards
    • Inform the continuous improvement of slaughter processes and business operations
    • Provide supplementary evidence in response to any allegations of illegal practice

    What does current UK legislation say about mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses?

    Animal welfare legislation is devolved, the current legislative approach to mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses across devolved administrations is set out below:

    England – From 5 November 2018 CCTV will be mandatory in all slaughterhouses with unrestricted access for Official Veterinarians.

    Scotland – The Scottish Government is currently consulting on proposals to introduce mandatory CCTV in all slaughterhouses with unrestricted access for Official Veterinarians.

    Wales – BVA continues to call on the Welsh Government to introduce mandatory CCTV in all slaughterhouses with unrestricted access for Official Veterinarians. The Welsh Government recently announced a £1.1million Food Business Investment scheme package of grant aid for small and medium size slaughterhouses in Wales to support infrastructure and the installation and upgrading of CCTV monitoring systems. 

    Northern Ireland – BVA continues to call on the Northern Ireland Government to introduce mandatory CCTV in all slaughterhouses with unrestricted access for Official Veterinarians.

    Can mandatory CCTV replace Official Veterinarians in slaughterhouses?

    CCTV should be used to complement, not reduce or replace, the existing physical presence and controls exercised by OVs in slaughterhouses to assess and maintain compliance with animal welfare standards.

    Fundamentally, compulsory CCTV is not a panacea to help prevent poor animal welfare standards, and should be considered as an additional management tool to protect animal welfare, complementing robust veterinary supervision. Similarly, whilst unrestricted access to real time and stored CCTV footage will facilitate the use of this footage for evidential purposes, CCTV remains difficult to use in prosecution processes. Consequently, the physical presence and controls exercised by Official Veterinarians to protect animal welfare remains key to enforcing compliance with animal welfare standards and encouraging continuous improvement.

    Useful resources