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Law Changing on Slaughter of Poultry

19 November 2012

New legislation designed to protect the welfare of animals at the time of slaughter comes into effect on 1 January 2013 across the European Union.

The new regulations will require commercial poultry producers to pre-stun their birds for slaughter.

All farms that kill poultry on site to supply meat, either directly to the final consumer or to local retailers who directly supply the final consumer, will need to comply with the new Council Regulation 1099/2009 on the Protection of Animals at the time of Killing.

The regulation says that producer-processors must spare animals from avoidable pain, distress or suffering during killing and related operations.

This means animals can only be killed after stunning in line with the methods and specific requirements set out in the regulation.

Killing and related operations must also be carried out by people who have achieved a certain level of competence and a new system is being introduced to train staff to a proficiency qualification in protecting the welfare of animals at the time of killing.

The member of staff has to select the units that reflect their responsibilities in the work place and having achieved the qualification that person can apply to the competent authority for a “Certificate of Competence” to kill animals.

The regulations state that people, who are applying for the certificates of competence may have to demonstrate relevant professional experience gained before 2013 and over a time of about three years, before they become eligible for ‘grandfather rights’ and transference of any current qualification/licence to the new qualification/certificate.

In the UK, the Humane Slaughter Association recommends the use of captive bolt stunning for turkeys, ducks and geese, out of all the permitted methods.

The HSA said that this specialised equipment has been scientifically researched and shown to cause an immediate loss of consciousness.

To target the brain, the stunner is positioned at the appropriate place on the bird’s head. After stunning, the bird will convulse involuntarily.

The HSA says that captive bolts can also humanely stun chickens and are therefore versatile equipment for producers with a range of poultry species.

Immediately after successful stunning, animals are usually bled to ensure they do not recover consciousness.

The current UK law (the Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995 as amended) requires processors to cut at least one carotid artery, but under the new rules, the “simple stunning” methods must be followed by systematic severance of both carotid arteries.

The HSA says that some producers may need to alter their bleeding practices and recommends that a reliable technique is a ventral neck cut across the front of the bird’s throat, close to the head. To sever the carotids it is essential to cut into the muscle of the neck and up to, but not through, the vertebrae.

Other methods of stunning that can be used are electric stunning and bleeding so long as the equipment immediately renders the animal unconscious and does not simply cause paralysis.

Gas stunning and bleeding can also be used but as yet there is no equipment available for on-farm use.

The bird can also be shot with a firearm, but the HSA says that this can pose a risk to bird welfare and to the health and safety of the staff.

Cervical dislocation without prior stunning is not permitted except where no other methods are available for stunning. Similar restrictions apply to using a percussive blow to the head.

Decapitation without prior stunning is strictly banned.

November 2012

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