Better slaughter practices

At the time of killing, animals are not always stunned. In cases where stunning does take place, this is not always done effectively. 

This implies that animals can still be conscious when bleeding starts. Despite the fact that pre-slaughter stunning is mandatory under the EU Regulation 1099/2009, a derogation is foreseen for slaughter carried out according to certain religious prescriptions. 

This type of slaughter, along with the use of ineffective stunning methods, are currently the major drivers of animal suffering in slaughterhouses in Europe. For instance, in the case of electrical water baths used for stunning poultry, birds may miss the electrified water bath completely or partially. Animals can lift their heads before entering the water, or there can be difficulties in achieving the suitable amperage for every single bird entering the water bath.

Certain stunning methods do not induce instantaneous and painless unconsciousness. For instance, high concentration CO2 stunning causes pain and distress for pigs from first exposure to the gas to loss of consciousness, which can take up to a minute to occur, yet it is used in the majority of large EU pig slaughterhouses as it allows for faster operations and more uniform meat quality. Footage of the suffering inflicted during this stunning procedure released by animal advocacy organisations has sparked outrage in the EU and internationally.

Additionally, staff training and skill level play a crucial role in determining animal welfare at slaughter. The EFSA recently identified a vast range of welfare problems occurring in poultry and rabbits at slaughter that are associated with skill level, as well as the level of attention of the people performing the slaughtering.

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60

SECONDS OCCUR BEFORE LOSS OF CONSCIOUSNESS IN HIGH CONCENTRATION CO2 STUNNING

7billion

BROILER CHICKENS SLAUGHTERED IN THE EU PER YEAR

94%

EUROPEANS THINK THAT PROTECTING THE WELFARE OF FARMED ANIMALS IS IMPORTANT

WHAT DOES THE PUBLIC THINK?

The 2016 special Eurobarometer on animal welfare showed that 94% of EU citizens think protecting the welfare of farmed animals is important, and 82% think they should be better protected by the EU than they are now.

Slaughter practices have been subject to increased scrutiny by  EU citizens as part of a broader trend towards flexitarian, reducetarian, vegetarian and plant-based dietary choices and the availability of alternatives to meat.  

Footage of the suffering inflicted during high concentration CO2 stunning released by animal advocacy organisations has sparked outrage in the EU and internationally. In October 2020 EU citizens expressed their views on slaughter without stunning in an opinion poll commissioned by Eurogroup for Animals and its members. Clearly showing the broad support for a ban on it: 

  • It should be mandatory to make animals unconscious before they are slaughtered -  89% agree

  • Countries should be able to adopt additional measures that ensure higher animal welfare standards -  92% agree

  • The European Union should require all animals to be stunned before being slaughtered, even for religious reasons - 87% agree

  • The European Union should prioritise funding for alternative practices for slaughtering animals in humane ways that are also accepted by religious groups - 80% agree

POLICY - CURRENT STATE OF PLAY

Regulation 1099/2009/EC on the protection of animals at the time of killing (the EU Slaughter Regulation) entered into force on 1st January 2013. Although the Regulation recognises that CO2 stunning of pigs is not humane, it also indicates that economically viable alternatives did not exist at the time.  Research into these alternatives is urgently needed.

As for the general conditions in slaughterhouses, they are always insufficiently monitored and the regulations are not always enforced.