Concerns over new poultry slaughter regulations

New slaughter regulations from Defra regarding the killing of poultry have raised concerns over the welfare of the birds with the British Veterinary Association (BVA). 

The organisation is apprehensive of Defra’s decision not to include stunning parameters in the legislation when it involves poultry being slaughtered ‘in accordance with religious rites’. Despite these concerns, BVA, or the most part, has applauded the Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (WATOK) Regulations.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has worked to evaluate parameters for electrical waterbath stunning of poultry, which has led to European legislation including rules on stunning when it comes to animal welfare at slaughter.

There are fears that if rules are not clearly implemented in electrical waterbath stunning for birds killed ‘in accordance with religious rites’, then the animals will be immobilised rather than stunned when it comes to slaughter. This would result in the animal still being conscious at the time of slaughter.

“In the last year we have seen headlines about the inhumane treatments of animals at slaughter and, while these new WATOK regulations are strong in many areas, we are concerned that the omission of specific parameters for electrical waterbath stunning leaves some poultry vulnerable to ineffective stunning,” explained BVA president Sean Wensley.

The BVA believes that European legislation should be practised throughout WATOK, with fears that taking away the requirements in electrical waterbath stunning may also remove the legal guarantee for effective stunning before slaughter.

In response to these issues, the BVA has voiced its concerns in a letter to Defra, seeking clarification as to how it will be ensured that the bird is stunned before the time of death.

“We have written to Defra outlining our concerns about this gap that undermines the science the regulations are built upon,” continued Wensley.

“It is difficult to see how effective stunning can be assured for all poultry if parameters are not set when poultry are killed in accordance with religious rites. Slaughtermen, official veterinarians and animal welfare officers in abattoirs are not able to tell the difference between birds that have been effectively stunned and those that are just electro-immobilised, thus compromising the animal welfare standards that these regulations are being put in place to protect.”

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