We are concerned that the way in which many farm animals are handled and slaughtered could be greatly improved in terms of animal welfare (learn more about how farm animals are slaughtered). It is essential that all animals are handled humanely, stunned effectively so that they do not feel any pain, and killed quickly.
Large animal slaughter
We are concerned that there is a risk that some cattle, pigs and sheep may not be being stunned effectively, causing them to regain consciousness before they die from blood loss.
For stunning to be effective it is vital that:
- the stunning equipment is working properly (regularly checked and maintained)
- stunning equipment is positioned correctly on the animal’s head/head and back
- during electrical stunning, enough current is applied for a long enough period
- during captive bolt stunning, the correct charge cartridge is used to fire the captive bolt
- the time between stunning and sticking is not too long.
The problems involved with the stunning of poultry are complex, but some of our main concerns are as follows.
- Some birds may miss the water bath because the bath is too low.
- If the equipment is poorly designed birds may receive painful pre-stun shocks as they enter the bath.
- The current flowing through the bird’s body may not be sufficient to make the bird unconscious.
- Birds passing through an automatic neck cutter may only receive a single cut to the neck to allow blood loss. Scientific evidence has shown that under these conditions it may be as long as six minutes before they are fully dead.
- There is a risk that birds may accidentally miss the automatic neck cutter. If these birds are not noticed by the slaughterman, they may still be alive when entering the scalding tank (where the boiling water helps to loosen the feathers prior to plucking).
Religious slaughter without pre-stunning
In June 2003, the Government’s independent advisory body, the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) published a report on the ‘Welfare of Farmed Animals at Slaughter or Killing’. We believe that this report provides detailed and well-considered information on this issue. FAWC looked at evidence from many individuals and organisations, including religious and animal welfare groups, and observed various methods of slaughter for themselves.
The FAWC report concluded...
- The level of restraint required to expose the throat, perform an effective cut and hold the animal still until it had bled out was far greater than that needed for conventional slaughter.
- When a large cut is made across the neck to a conscious animal this would “result in very significant pain and distress” in the period before the animal loses consciousness (around 5 to 7 seconds for sheep, and around 22 to 40 seconds for adult cattle).
Their recommendations were that “slaughter without pre-stunning is unacceptable and that the Government should repeal the current exemption”. FAWC also concluded that “until the current exemption which permits slaughter without pre-stunning is repealed … any animal not stunned before slaughter should receive an immediate post-cut stun”.
Recent research undertaken in New Zealand has provided further evidence of the welfare problems associated with neck cutting of conscious animals (see information sheet for further details)
Labelling of meat from animals slaughtered by religious methods
It has been estimated that less than half of the meat from animals slaughtered by the Jewish methods is sold in Kosher shops. A high proportion of the meat that is declared non-Kosher is sold on the open market but is not labelled as meat from animals that have been slaughtered without pre-stunning.
More detailed information on all of the above is available in the information sheets on the right.