EC push to close abattoir loophole

Fresh legal performance standards for slaughterhouses across the EU have been proposed by the European Commission, which is seeking to improve the welfare management of slaughtered animals.

Brussels is concerned that, while there are EU health and safety standards that slaughterhouses must already follow, there is still potential for sloppy practice on animal welfare, because this aspect of slaughterhouse work is not regulated by the EU and must be transposed into national laws.

Now, in a formal legal proposal that will doubtless be welcomed by animal welfare activists, the Commission is aiming to close that loophole. The law will insist that slaughterhouse operators "evaluate the efficiency of their stunning methods" and monitor animals regularly to ensure they do not regain consciousness before slaughter. They will also have to appoint an animal welfare officer, responsible for implementing these measures, although small abattoirs would be exempt from this.

A Commission note said the law, if approved by EU ministers and MEPs, would "integrate welfare considerations into the design of slaughterhouses". EU health commissioner Androulla Vassiliou said: "This proposal will make a real difference to the way animals are treated at the time of slaughter, as well as providing a level playing field for operators."

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