Tag Archives: Poultry

Non-stun slaughter – Why not a precautionary tale?

The number of sheep and goats slaughtered without stunning has doubled in the last six years, with an estimated 3.3 million (27%) not stunned in 2017. A Food Standards Agency survey for England and Wales estimates that 184 million poultry and 21 thousand cattle were also slaughtered without an effective stun in 2017 (see VPRF Non-stun slaughter Fact File)

EU and UK law require all livestock at abattoirs to be stunned and therefore rendered unconscious and insensible to pain before slaughter. The EU uses a ‘Precautionary Principle’ for policy areas where scientific evidence may be uncertain, but there is reasonable concern for harm to environmental, human or animal health. Despite a body of scientific evidence of harm, the use of non-stun slaughter by some religious groups is allowed in the UK but non-stun slaughter is banned in several countries around the world.

The UK legislation (Welfare of Animals at Time of Killing, WATOK) requires that for non-stun slaughter, each animal has a rapid, uninterrupted cut to the neck by hand-held knife to sever both carotid arteries and jugular veins. The animal must be restrained suitably and be left still during exsanguination for a minimum defined time post-cut. The majority of red meat (63% sheep, 75% cattle) slaughtered for halal is reversibly stunned but the remainder is not. This meat, along with 70% of meat from non-stunned kosher carcasses, enters the market unlabelled.

chicken behind fence NSS slaughter fact file

Several studies have measured time to loss of consciousness (and therefore sensibility to pain and distress) through a variety of methods including loss of posture. Following non-stun slaughter and across several studies, poultry reportedly took 12-15 seconds following throat cut before signs of unconsciousness were apparent. In sheep this was between 2-14 seconds and in cattle between 11seconds in some cases over 4minutes (cattle time to collapse may be longer due to a unique alternative blood supply to the brain).

Recently there has been much public support to recognise that animals are sentient, and therefore able to suffer pain and distress. ‘We are a nation of animal lovers’ the papers declare and Ministers repeatedly emphasise our proud record of high animal welfare. With programmes such as Blue Planet capturing the imagination of the world (apparently the most viewed TV programme of 2017), and conversations around the sustainability and morality of our diets being brought into the mainstream by films such as Cowspiracy, Okja and Carnage; why is the UK struggling to agree when it comes to stunning animals before slaughter?

Lord Trees – the only Veterinarian in parliament – will ask in the House of Lords ‘what is to be done to minimise the number of animals slaughtered without stunning?’ on Wednesday 7th February 15h00

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UK Antimicrobial Resistance Summit

Tuesday 18th November was European Antibiotics Awareness Day and the VPRF went along to participate in the UK Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Summit organised by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate. The event was hosted at Nobel House by Professor the Lord Trees of the Ross, Member of the House of Lords, Nigel Gibbens, the UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer and Professor Peter Borriello, CEO, Veterinary Medicines Directorate.

EAAD_abx_infographic_2The aim of the meeting was to bring together livestock production industry leaders and animal health representatives from the relevant Government departments and make a unified move from raising awareness to action at a national level.

As part of the cross-Government 5 year AMR strategy substantial outcomes are expected from both the public and animal health sides. However, whilst the Department of Health and Public Health England have the single, public sector NHS to deliver their outcomes, DEFRA and the VMD have multiple different private industry sectors with different issues related to antibiotic use.

EAAD_abx_infographicGeorge Eustice MP (Defra Minister for farming, food and marine environment) and Dr Felicity Harvey ( Director General for Public Health, Department of Health) both spoke at the event to give a sense of the current position of their departments. Prof Borriello spoke on behalf of the VMD.  This was followed by the perspective from industry, with updates from the pig, poultry and dairy sectors, all of whom are at startlingly different stages in their understanding and reduction of antibiotic use.

After lunch there was a round table discussion to consider what had been heard that morning. The main conclusion was that before action can be taken accurate and appropriate data needs to be gathered in one place for in depth analysis. For example, currently it isn’t possible to separate data on sales of pig and poultry antimicrobials into which were used for pigs and which for poultry. Furthermore, sales are not representative of use. There is much work to be done.

Annual Reception for Eggs, pigs and poultry

All-Party Parliamentary Group for Eggs, Pigs & Poultry

The APPG for Eggs, Pigs and Poultry held its annual reception on Wednesday 29th October, hosted by the chairman of the APPG, Neil Parish MP. The group exists as a cross-party body to inform Peers and MPs interested in the egg, poultry meat and pork sectors. The group has the support of the National Pig Association, the British Poultry Council, the British Egg Industry Council and the National Farmers Union.

The reception is an informal affair and Neil Parish gave a short address on the progress of the enquiry currently being led by the APPG into planning, antibiotics and welfare associated with egg, pig and poultry production. Only the day before, the group had concluded its final evidence session. Several Peers and MPs  attended the reception to chat to the industry representatives about their concerns. These concerns included, but were not limited to: parasitic red mite infestation, the 2018 EU beak-trimming ban and alternative options to prevent cannibalism, African swine fever, Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea virus, and consumer understanding of quality assurance schemes.