Vegetarians International Voice for Animals

Urgent call for enquiry into welfare at slaughter

Government report highlights a catalogue of failings for British poultry

Release date: 
Monday, June 22, 2009

Viva! " Europe's largest campaigning vegetarian group " is urging the Government to launch an urgent review of the welfare of "white meat' animals at slaughter in light of a damning report by its own welfare advisory committee. The report by FAWC (Farm Animal Welfare Council) is a indictment of a system that regularly fails the 853 million poultry slaughtered each year in Britain, claims Viva!. The report states that "A wide variety of stunning and killing systems are used for poultry, and none is ideal', which Viva! believes supports its claim that there is no such thing as humane slaughter. Concerns raised in the report include: - many birds are live shackled (upside down) before slaughter. The report states that "Live shackling may cause considerable pain and distress, which is likely to be exacerbated when heavy birds or fracture-prone, end-of-lay hens are shackled'. FAWC recommends phasing out live shackling. - throughput at many British slaughterhouses is very high " often over 10,000 birds an hour. FAWC voice their concerns the welfare of individual birds may be deemed less "significant' when large numbers of animals are slaughtered at once. - resistance of individual birds varies greatly to stunning using the water bath technique. This means that many may not be stunned accurately and could recover before or during having their throats cut. Other birds may arch their necks and miss the water completely. FAWC said that they were "seriously concerned' by missed stuns. - FAWC said that a stun-to-kill policy would be the only way to avoid some birds regaining consciousness, but because it may taint meat the industry is resistant. - in controlled atmosphere systems (where the birds are effectively gassed), FAWC cited research that each system studied "had different welfare concerns'. - a slaughterman's licence is issued for life, without re-assessment of competence. FAWC said this was clearly wrong. - the report was deeply critical that the MHS (Meat Hygiene Service) has stopped publishing data that shows compliance with animal welfare legislation. - there is no maximum transport time for poultry, despite their welfare being significantly compromised on long journeys. - FAWC recommend that major blood vessels of the neck, including carotid arteries, should be cut to ensure rapid exsanguination. However, on high throughput systems where birds are cut automatically, some cutters only cut one side of the neck. This can mean that there is an increased risk that birds will regain consciousness whilst bleeding to death. - under British law, all animals must be pre-stunned before slaughter. The only exception to this is for so-called religious slaughter. The report stated that birds killed in this manner are likely to remain conscious for 20 seconds or more after their necks are cut. FAWC said that they were in agreement with prevailing international scientific consensus that slaughter without pre-stunning causes pain and distress. The report states that the MHS no longer collects data on how many animals are killed in Britain via this method. - each year, more than 30 million male chicks from egg-laying strains, and around 5-8 million "unviable' broiler chicks, are killed. This is done either by IMD (Instantaneous Mechanical Destruction) (live chicks emptied into a macerator) or by gassing. The report says that aversive gases should be phased out, and maceration for large numbers of chicks could be problematic if the rate of delivery exceeds the capacity of the machine. Viva! campaigns manager Justin Kerswell says: "This report confirms that there is no such thing as such as humane slaughter, and blows out the water the myth that Britain leads the world when it comes to farmed animal welfare. The Government must act on FAWC's recommendations immediately. 'If a catalogue of problems were uncovered under the beady eyes of an official Government investigation into the industry, just how bad does it get when no one from outside is watching' For FAWC to say that there is no "ideal' method for ensuring welfare for poultry at slaughter you have to ask yourself why are we killing and consuming over 800 million of them every year' 'thankfully, the number of poultry we eat in this country has fallen rapidly in the last few years* as people start to realise that they can remove themselves from this bloody business by going vegetarian.' For more information about this media release please contact Justin Kerswell on 0117 904 3823 or email justin@viva.org.uk Ends Notes for editors * Figures show that consumption of poultry meat in the UK last year fell by a massive 67,000 tonnes (four percent): http://statistics.defra.gov.uk/esg/publications/auk/2008/excel.asp (note: these are the most up to date figures provided by Defra and will next be updated in March 2010). The FAWC report can be viewed here: http://www.fawc.org.uk/ The Report on the Welfare of Farmed Animals at Slaughter or Killing " Part 2: White Meat Animals deals specifically with broiler chickens, laying hens, turkeys, ducks, geese, gamebirds " as well as rabbits.