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Slaughter of cattle: assessment of welfare problems

Efsa: 40 hazards identified that could occur during killing

EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) has published an assessment of the welfare of cattle at the time of slaughter based on current scientific studies and research. The recent scientific opinion is part of a series of updates on the protection of animal welfare at slaughterhouses, requested by the European Commission, and follows on from assessments already published on poultry, rabbits and pigs.

The killing of cattle for human consumption (slaughter) can take place in a slaughterhouse or on a farm. The slaughter processes assessed in terms of welfare, from the arrival of the cattle to their death (including slaughter without stunning), were grouped into three main stages: pre-stunning (including arrival, unloading from the truck, stable, handling and movement of livestock); stunning (including containment); and bleeding. The methods were grouped into two categories: mechanical and electrical. Twelve consequences that cattle may be exposed to during slaughter have been identified: heat stress, cold stress, fatigue, prolonged thirst, prolonged hunger, impeded movement, restricted movement, rest problems (inability to rest or discomfort during rest), social stress, pain, fear and distress.

A total of 40 animal welfare risks that could occur during slaughter were identified in the EFSA assessment, most of which related to stunning and bleeding. 39 out of 40, are the result of inadequate preparation of the staff or fatigue. The EFSA document proposes measures to prevent and correct these dangers. Results tables have been developed for each process that link hazards, welfare consequences, animal-based measures, source of hazards, and preventive and corrective measures. Finally, mitigation measures are proposed to minimize the consequences on animal welfare.

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EFA News - European Food Agency