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Key welfare issues

We believe that the way in which many farm animals are handled and slaughtered could be greatly improved in terms of animal welfare.


Large animals

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 - it should be 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 to ensure the animals remain unconscious throughout.


Poultry

The problems involved with the stunning of poultry are complex. Our main concerns include the following:

In electric water bath systems:

  • The shackling of live birds - which is painful. 
  • Some birds may miss the water bath stunner.
  • If the equipment is poorly designed birds may receive painful pre-stun shocks as they enter the bath stunner.
  • The current flowing through the bird’s body may not be sufficient to ensure the bird is unconscious.
  • Birds passing through an automatic neck cutter may only receive a single cut to the neck, which reduces the rate of blood loss. 
  • There is a risk that birds may accidentally miss the automatic neck cutter. If these birds are not noticed by the slaughter person, they may still be alive when entering the scalding tank (where the boiling water helps to loosen the feathers prior to plucking).


In gas killing systems:

  • Conscious birds may be exposed to levels of carbon dioxide gas that are highly aversive.


Slaughter without pre-stunning (for religious purposes)

Please see our religious slaughter page for details on the key welfare issues of the slaughter of animals without pre-stunning.


Further information

Find out how you can help improve the welfare of farm animals at the time of slaughter/killing.