On 18 September 2008, the EU Commission published a proposed new regulation on the welfare of animals at slaughter. This is largely good news for animal welfare, but much still remains to be done for the millions of pigs, chickens and other animals reared for food each year.
Before becoming law, the regulation has to be voted on by the European Parliament and agreed by the European Council of Agricultural Ministers.
If passed, it will lead to some much needed improvements in slaughter - all slaughterhouses will have written standard operating procedures and have to appoint animal welfare officers, who will evaluate the efficiency of their stunning methods according to animal based indicators. The whole process would be monitored to ensure animals do not regain consciousness before slaughter.
Furthermore, all slaughtermen will need certificates of competence, in an attempt to minimize suffering and make sure that only personnel trained in more humane slaughter methods perform the task.
These are great steps forward, but Compassion in World Farming is disappointed that the EU has shied away from tackling some crucial issues.
Carbon dioxide gas is currently used to kill millions of pigs every year despite scientific research showing that this method causes "severe respiratory distress" and pigs can be seen gasping and hyperventilating. The new EU regulation should have banned the use of high levels of carbon dioxide but instead it has given the green light to the continued use of this unacceptable method.
Pigs are commonly hustled through modern abattoirs at the rate of 300 an hour and chickens at 8,000 an hour. At these speeds it's difficult to safeguard the well being of individual animals. The proposed new regulation will introduce real reforms though we hope that the European Parliament will vote to strengthen its areas of weakness.
The proposed regulation also does not address the issue of electrical stunning for chickens - it is widely accepted that this system can lead to pain and distress and should be replaced by the use of non-aversive gases such as argon or nitrogen.
Lastly, the regulation would continue to allow animals to be killed without prior stunning for religious slaughter. This means that many animals can still have their throat cut while fully conscious - scientific research shows that this causes great suffering.
In the following months, we will be lobbying hard to ensure that the good parts of the regulation are not weakened during the voting process and to get the regulation strengthened where we think it is not satisfactory for the welfare of slaughtered animals.
We believe that farm animals should not and need not suffer.
If you agree, please support us today. Achieving legal recognition of animals as sentient beings (capable of feeling pain and distress) is just one of the things that our supporters have helped us achieve so far. Your donation could help end all forms of farm animal cruelty and help us stop factory farming in its tracks.
We receive no government funding so rely entirely on the generosity of our supporters to prevent cruelty to farm animals all over the world.
Read more about Compassion in World Farming's Comment on FAWC recommendations on stunning before slaughter ( 42.92KB).
Find out about Animal welfare problems in UK slaughterhouses ( 79.02KB).
Learn more about animal sentience here.