Slaughter proposals hailed as boost to animal welfare

Animal welfare groups have welcomed EU Commission proposals to overhaul the current slaughter directive.

Proposed improvements to the directive include measures such as introducing animal welfare officers in slaughterhouses and requiring all staff working with animals to have their competence assessed.

The planned revision of directive 93/119/EC on the protection of animals at the time of slaughter or killing also includes the creation of animal welfare reference centres in each member state, which can be used to get technical advice. They will also be responsible for assessing new methods, equipment and technologies.

Sonja Van Tichelen, director of Eurogroup for Animals, said: "These proposals are a step in the right direction and will benefit millions of animals. It is unacceptable in a civilised society that animals have to suffer in their final moments. So much of their suffering can be avoided or decreased by having well-trained staff and by using appropriate stunning techniques.

"These plans also mean that the industry will have to take up responsibility for the welfare of animals. The appointment of an animal welfare officer, who will be responsible for supervising the treatment of animals in slaughterhouses, will do much to benefit them."

The animal welfare officer must be available at all times when there are live animals on the premises and staff will have the authority to take whatever action necessary to safeguard the welfare of animals.

Although the proposals would significantly improve animal welfare in Europe, welfare groups say that there is still scope to reduce suffering at slaughter further.

Eurogroup is calling for the phasing-out of live-shackling, which involves hanging poultry upside down while alive, a method the group claims causes the birds to suffer "stress, pain and injuries".

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