Key welfare issues

Large animals

There is a risk that some cattle, pigs and sheep may not be stunned effectively, causing them to regain consciousness before they die from blood loss. Therefore, for stunning to be effective it is vital that:

  • the stunning equipment is working properly - it should be regularly checked and maintained
  • the 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 prevent  animals regaining  consciousness.


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

The use of  electric water bath systems, as these systems:

  • Involve the shackling of live birds - which is painful.
  • Can result in some birds missing the water bath stunner.
  • Can result in the birds receiving painful pre-stun shocks as they enter the stunner.
  • Can result in an insufficient electrical current flowing through the bird's body to ensure the bird is unconscious (effectively stunned).
  • Can be designed so birds passing through an automatic neck cutter only receive a single cut to the neck, which reduces the rate of blood loss.
  • Can result in  birds accidentally missing the automatic neck cutter. If these birds are not noticed by the slaughter person, they may still be alive when entering the scalding tank (a tank of  boiling water that 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 (religious slaughter)

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. 

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