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EU Commission fails to act for animals

News Section Icon Published 29/05/2015

We are deeply disappointed that the European Commission has failed to act to lessen the suffering of millions of animals at the most vulnerable moment of their lives – at slaughter.

We believe that all slaughter should be humane, which means that animals must be effectively stunned before slaughter.

One billion chickens are ineffectively stunned in the EU each year

Shockingly, a substantial proportion of EU chickens are ineffectively stunned before they are slaughtered. In some cases the electrical currents that are used to stun them do not comply with EU law. In other cases, even though the parameters required by law are used, these are not adequate to produce an effective stun.

Ineffective stunning is a serious welfare issue. The birds may suffer an electric shock and be immobilised while remaining fully conscious when their necks are cut. Alternatively, it may produce too short a period of unconsciousness resulting in a proportion of birds regaining consciousness before death. Our findings are backed up by clear scientific evidence.

We have highlighted this issue to the EU Commission but received this lacklustre response: “I take note of your views but can only reiterate that the Commission considers that there is not enough scientific evidence to amend the electrical parameters in question.”

A change in the law is urgently needed. We will continue to lobby the EU Commission on this important issue.

Millions of pigs stunned before slaughter with CO2 gas, suffer

Scientific research has been clear since 1996 that the use of high concentrations of CO2 to stun pigs is profoundly aversive and leads to severe respiratory distress. Despite this, no alternatives have been developed. Scientists tell us that they have tried to get sponsors for research in this field time and again, without success. We are concerned that many slaughterhouses are changing their stunning system and switching to CO2.

In the UK, a 2011 report by the Food Standards Agency shows 50% of pigs being slaughtered with CO2.

The Commission said: “The 2004 EFSA opinion indeed pointed out that the use of carbon dioxide is not optimal for the welfare of the pigs.” But it did not propose to end this inhumane practice because it was not “economically viable” to do so and continues to shrug off any responsibility for working with member states to improve the welfare of pigs at slaughter.

We urge the Commission to take the lead - in conjunction with the meat industry, in ensuring that substantial resources are committed to the urgent development of a better stunning method for pigs before slaughter. In particular, we urge the Commission to:

  • sponsor a panel of experts to find an animal-friendly alternative.
  • set a date for the phasing-out of CO2 and the implementation of better methods.

Two million EU animals exported each year to Middle East, North Africa and Turkey are slaughtered in immensely cruel ways

Every year, millions of live animals are exported from the European Union to non-EU countries. Hundreds of thousands are destined for countries in Russia, Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa.

These horrifically long journeys must be stopped once and for all and replaced by a trade in frozen or refrigerated meat.

When European animals are exported outside of the EU, they leave behind them every shred of legal protection they once received. The result can mean squalid housing, brutal handling, torturous restraint systems, and slow, painful slaughter.

The EU Commission's response indicates that they could not check that animals welfare needs are met: "… under the current legislative framework neither the EU nor the Member States has the competence to carry out the necessary controls that would be required to verify compliance by third countries."

Most farmed fish in EU are slaughtered in ways that are inhumane and illegal

We informed the EU Commission that by December last year, they were legally required to produce a report on the protection of fish at the time of killing taking into account animal welfare aspects. We asked for an update on the report and were informed that: “All animal welfare policy issues are still under reflection including the report that you referred to in your letter. Therefore, I regret not being able to reply to you for the time being.”

It is not acceptable for the EU Commission to stall on this important report.

Millions of sheep and goats are slaughtered on-farm without stunning or any inspection

No one really knows the number and percentage of licensed vs unlicensed facilities, but it is certain that many animals are slaughtered in unlicensed facilities. This is a major problem for public health and animal health and welfare.

Under pressure from local authorities, many countries changed the rules (hygiene, environment) by lowering standards and made it easier for some abattoirs to operate. So, many “unlicensed” abattoirs now have a license. This seems to have happened in many countries in the EU.

The EU Commission must act to ensure all animals are slaughtered in the most humane conditions possible.

EU Commission refuses to listen

EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan responded to a question about live exports by saying that he would not be “bullied by 500 text messages I’ve got on my phone during the course of the day on animal farming and animal welfare issues”.

If you think that will work with me you can certainly forget about it. That’s a campaigning tool that should be well gotten rid of at this stage.”

Take action

Hold the European Commission to account for its complete failure to take seriously the suffering of animals at the time of slaughter.


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