The suffering exposed by the Animal Aid investigation filming (August 2009) is not confined to a few UK slaughterhouses. Serious deficiencies in slaughter practice have been documented in a number of EU countries by the European Commission's Food and Veterinary Office and by investigations by various animal welfare organisations.
The rough handling and incompetent stunning that leads to animals being stunned two or three times and regaining consciousness before throat cutting, as seen in the Animal Aid footage, has been found to be all too common place.
Earlier this year (May 2009) Compassion in World Farming, in association with French organisation One Voice, launched their own expose of harsh slaughter conditions in Europe. This investigation involved visits to 25 French abattoirs. The suffering exposed is not confined to France. Serious deficiencies in slaughter practice have been documented in a number of EU countries by the European Commission's Food and Veterinary Office - and by investigations by animal welfare organisations.
The film revealed rough handling and incompetent stunning leading to animals being stunned two or three times and regaining consciousness before throat cutting. It shows animals that cannot walk being dragged to the point of slaughter and a calf that is left in a stunning box for a protracted period cowering in terror and trying to escape. The suffering endured by animals that are subjected to religious slaughter without stunning is highlighted by the film.
Compassion in World Farming urges the government to act urgently to ensure that all slaughtermen are properly trained and regularly monitored so that this kind of horrendous cruelty does not continue. It is vital that all animals are properly stunned and correctly slaughtered so that their suffering is minimised.
Hit-and-miss EU Slaughter Regulation
The new EU Agriculture Council Regulation, of 22 June 2009, is intended to ensure slaughterhouses comply with animal welfare standards.
Certificates of examination in competency are needed and Slaughterhouses are required to designate one of their staff as their Animal Welfare Officer who will ensure compliance with the Regulation's welfare rules.
However, the regulation on stunning 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."
Compassion in World Farming believes strong enforcement by government veterinarians is needed to reduce suffering at slaughter.
EU law requires that: 'Animals shall be spared any avoidable excitement, pain or suffering during movement, lairaging, restraint, stunning, slaughter or killing' and sets out permitted methods of slaughter. Animals have to be stunned before slaughter and remain unconscious until they are dead, or be killed instantaneously. However, enforcement of humane slaughter law is not effective in all countries and some countries still do not have any laws to protect animals at slaughter.
The best slaughterhouses can provide a high standard of welfare. However, billions of animals each year are at risk of suffering if slaughter is not carried out humanely and according to standards of best practice. Animals can suffer at slaughter as a result of incompetent personnel or inadequate buildings and equipment. In addition, scientific evidence shows that some commonly accepted and legal practices are in fact inhumane.
Improving animal welfare at slaughter
Welfare at slaughter could be much improved by significant international investment in training, equipment, buildings, inspection, enforcement and auditing of standards and progress, with the aim of enabling most countries to meet OIE standards
View the Animal Aid Shocking slaughter footage: 10 minute compilation
Please be aware that this contains images that viewers may find distressing.