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New hit-and-miss EU Slaughter Regulation

News Section Icon Published 02/07/2009

On 22 June 2009, the EU Agriculture Council agreed on a new Slaughter Regulation. It includes several welcome provisions, but on the whole is disappointing in that it fails to address a number of serious welfare problems.

Compassion in World Farming is concerned that the Regulation often ignores scientific research that indicates that certain reforms are needed in the interests of animal welfare.

On the positive side, the new Regulation sets new measures to ensure slaughterhouses comply with animal welfare standards:

  • Slaughtermen are required to hold a certificate of competence which can only be granted after they have passed an examination
  • Slaughterhouses need to designate one of their staff as their Animal Welfare Officer who will take a leading role in ensuring compliance with the Regulation's welfare rules
  • Slaughterhouses are required to draw up Standard Operating Procedures.

However, the Regulation is disappointing on several aspects:

  • On stunning: the Regulation does not require loss of consciousness to be immediate and only requires stunning to be "without pain". Certain forms of stunning can cause substantial suffering while not actually being painful. Compassion in World Farming will continue to lobby for stunning to be "without pain, distress or suffering"
  • On stunning for poultry: despite scientific evidence provided by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that the practice is "extremely painful," the Regulation fails to phase out the shackling of live poultry. It also permits the use of very high frequencies for stunning poultry. Scientific research clearly shows that high frequencies result in ineffective stunning in many cases. Such high frequencies should have been prohibited
  • On stunning for pigs: the Regulation permits the use of high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) for stunning pigs. Concentrations above 30% cause hyperventilation and irritation of the mucous membranes that can be painful. Pigs suffer from fear, pain and stress during immersion into the gas
  • On stunning of cattle: the EFSA Report made it clear that slaughter without stunning in an upright position causes much less suffering than slaughter in an inverted position. Regrettably, the Regulation permits (subject to certain conditions) the continued use of rotation boxes for the slaughter of cattle without stunning
  • On religious slaughter: the Regulation allows religious slaughter without stunning to continue despite EFSA's recommendation that "due to the serious animal welfare concerns associated with slaughter without stunning, pre-cut stunning should always be performed"
  • On compliance: It places more responsibility on the abattoirs themselves to get things right. Compassion in World Farming is sceptical about this approach. We believe strong enforcement by government veterinarians is needed to reduce suffering at slaughter.

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.

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