EU adopts slaughter welfare regulation

European agriculture ministers have agreed on tough new animal welfare rules to minimise suffering at time of slaughter.

The EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council adopted a new regulaton on Monday (22 June), which will come into force in 2013.

It will require all slaughterhouse operators to appoint an Animal Welfare Officer, monitor the efficiency of stunning techniques and ensure that all staff involved in slaughter are properly trained and certified.

The standards governing slaughterhouse construction and equipment will also be updated. Slaughterhouses will have to incorporate animal welfare in their design and manufacturers of stunning equipment will be required to provide instructions for ensuring proper animal welfare.

Meat imported from third countries will have to be accompanied by an attestation certifying that certain requirements of the regulation have been met.

The new regulation replaces the current EU directive relating to the welfare of animals at the time of slaughter. EU commissioner for health Androulla Vassiliou said the directive, which had not been updated since 1993, was “outdated” and in need of revision.

“As a society we have a duty of care to animals, which includes minimising distress and avoiding pain throughout the slaughtering process,” she said, adding that the new rules “will make a real difference to the way animals are treated at the time of slaughter, as well as promoting innovation and providing a level playing field for operators.”

The Council decided to change from a directive to a regulation to provide for “uniform and simultaneous application”, and establishing a single set of rules to protect the welfare of the 360 million pigs, sheep, goats and cattle slaughtered for meat across the EU each year.

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