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Welfare of animals at slaughter

What’s the issue?

Millions of farmed animals are slaughtered each year to provide us with the food we eat. Animal health and welfare must be protected throughout the slaughter process (from preparation on-farm, to transport, handling and killing operations at the abattoir) so that animals receive the most humane death possible.

Vets, known as Official Veterinarians (OVs), play a crucial role in ensuring compliance with legislation to protect the health and welfare of animals at slaughter.  They work to maintain public trust and commercial confidence in food production, and are highly trained with multi-species knowledge to protect animal health, animal welfare, public health, and food safety standards.

What's our view? Image

What's our view?

Slaughter processes should be designed to minimise avoidable pain, distress, fear, and suffering. Current legislation provides a good framework to achieve these outcomes. Species-specific needs should be considered at all stages of the slaughter process, and all animals, including farmed finfish, wild caught fish, decapods and cephalopods, should be effectively stunned before slaughter.

We support the Farm Animal Welfare Council’s (FAWC) principles of humane slaughter as set out in the FAWC opinion and reports on the welfare of farmed animals at slaughter or killing.

“Slaughter [...] is the final event in a farm animal’s life. The following principles must be observed if slaughter […] is to be humane with minimal pain, suffering and distress:

  • All personnel involved with slaughter […] must be trained, competent and caring
  • Only those animals that are fit should be caught [or penned], loaded and transported to the slaughter site
  • Any handling of animals prior to slaughter must be done with consideration for the animal’s welfare
  • In the slaughter facility only equipment that is fit for the purpose must be used
  • Prior to slaughter of an animal, either it must be rendered unconscious and insensible to pain instantaneously or unconsciousness must be induced without pain or distress
  • Animals must not recover consciousness [before] death ensues.”

To build on current legislation and best practice, and ultimately improve welfare at slaughter, we have set out recommendations for government, industry, researchers, and the veterinary profession across each stage of the slaughter process. Our recommendations cover:   

  • Current legislative protections
  • The vital role of the Official Veterinarian (OV)
  • Provision of suitable abattoir facilities
  • Preparation, transport and acceptance for slaughter
  • Handling and harvesting operations
  • Effective stunning, data capture and reporting
  • Non-stun slaughter, improved regulation, and acceptance of stunning
  • Consumer education and food labelling

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