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Corrective and preventive measures urgently needed after EFSA spots many welfare hazards at poultry slaughter

Photo credit: L214

Two new Scientific Opinions by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) identify many animal welfare problems likely to occur on poultry during slaughter and killing operations and propose urgent measures to minimise and prevent them.

The killing of poultry for human consumption (slaughtering) can take place in a slaughterhouse or during on‐farm slaughter. A new EFSA assessment identified 35 hazards, most of them related to stunning and bleeding, that impact the welfare of the animals being slaughtered. 

Particularly, EFSA identified 10 welfare consequences the birds can be exposed to during slaughter (i.e., the persistence of consciousness, heat stress, cold stress, prolonged thirst, prolonged hunger, restriction of movements, pain, fear, distress and respiratory distress). This Scientific Opinion acknowledges that proper management plays a crucial preventive role and that “priority should be given to the implementation of preventive measures”. However, with the aim to minimise negative welfare consequences on the animals, it is also recommended to put in place several corrective measures, which are listed by EFSA.

Poultry might have to be killed on‐farm for purposes other than slaughter, for instance because of unproductivity or disease control operations. Therefore, EFSA assessed this scenario as well in a second opinion. In this scenario, EFSA  identified 29 hazards likely to occur during this killing processes and eight welfare consequences that can be experienced by poultry (i.e.,  not dying, regaining of consciousness- after the application of killing method-, heat stress, cold stress, pain, fear, distress and respiratory distress). 

Staff training and skilfulness play an important role in the process.  According to EFSA, lack of appropriate skills to perform these tasks, as well as high killing rates negatively affect the welfare of  the animals undergoing the killing process. To tackle the identified hazards effectively and so prevent the occurrence of animal welfare issues, EFSA identified corrective as well as preventive measures.

The findings of both Opinions will be used by the European Commission (EC) and World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) to align approaches to Animal welfare at time of  slaughter and killing.

CONTACT:
Francesca Porta

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Corrective and preventive measures urgently needed after EFSA spots many welfare hazards at poultry slaughter

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