Slaughter of Cattle, Sheep and Goats
Every abattoir must have an animal welfare policy relevant for the type, sex and age of animals that it deals with. Every person involved with handling animals till death must be familiar with the policy and they must receive training through a recognised animal welfare course. Time should be set aside for in-house animal welfare training at least once a year. There should always be a nominated Animal Welfare Officer on duty within the lairage or stunning area. A contingency plan should be drawn up to deal with emergencies and these should be reviewed regularly.
Casualty animals must be treated as a priority and be provided with veterinary attention at the earliest possible time. There should be at least one pen that is designated as a casualty pen. Animals unable to walk must be killed in situ in a humane manner. Only trained personnel should be involved with unloading animals. The animals must be moved in a calm and quiet manner, using equipment that is constructed and maintained so as to prevent any physical damage to the animals. The routes ahead should be clear of obstruction and provide a consistent visual environment. Animals should have access to clean drinking water at all times. If animals are kept overnight, they must be provided with appropriate food and suitable bedding. Animals which may become aggressive due to their sex, origin or age must be separated from each other in the lairage.
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Animals must be moved and handled calmly and quietly. Handlers should not rush animals or become aggressive towards them. Animals must only be driven forward when the way ahead is clear. Electric goads must never be used on sheep; only aids that encourage movement through sight and sound must be used. As a last resort for bovines, the goad may be applied for no more than 2 seconds on the hind-quarters of an adult animal and only when the way ahead is clear and the animal refuses to move.
Races must be designed in a way that encourages forward movement using appropriate lighting and layout. right angled bends should be avoided. Restrainer conveyors for sheep must be firm enough to reduce excessive movement but must not cause the sheep pain. They should offer the sheep in a position that is convenient for accurate stunning by the slaughterman. Bulls should be slaughtered as soon as possible.
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Stunning equipment should be checked daily and a maintenance record kept of all checks, maintenance and repairs. Captive-bolt equipment should have their velocity checked or failing that, have all the components inspected. Electrical stunning equipment should have the current and voltage checked under load. Electrodes must be cleaned regularly during use and all captive-bolt instruments should be stripped and cleaned at the end of each working day. A suitable backup must be accessible to the slaughterman at all times for use in an emergency or when the main equipment fails.
Animals must not be moved to the stunning point unless they can be stunned immediately. Stunning by whichever method must be followed as soon as possible with bleeding. Cattle, calves, sheep and goats may be stunned using the captive-bolt or electronarcosis. signs of an effective captive-bolt stunning include:
- animal collapses
- no rhythmic breathing
- fixed, fully dilated pupil
- no corneal reflex
- relaxed jaw
- tongue hanging out
Signs of an effective electrical stun are exhibited in two phases, tonic and clonic as illustrated in the table below.
|animal collapses and becomes rigid
||gradual relaxation of muscles
|no rhythmic breathing
||paddling or involuntary kicking
|head is raised
||downward movement of eyeballs
|forelegs extended and hind legs flexed
||urination and/or defaecation
Passive restraints are useful for accurate positioning of stunning equipment in the stun box.
Animals must be restrained appropriately to enable accurate positioning of the captive-bolt. The correct stunning position is different for polled and horned goats but is the same for cattle. When a non-penetrative captive-bolt is used, the muzzle must be positioned approximately 20mm above the position used for penetrative captive-bolt. The power of the cartridge used will depend on species and size. Use of lower powered cartridges may compromise animal welfare whereas using cartridges more powerful than is required may result in excessive wear of the equipment. If there is any doubt that the animal has been effectively stunned, it should be re-stunned immediately. All stunned animals should be bled immediately.
Electrical stunning equipment should be tested daily and must have a display showing the voltage and current. Animals should be appropriately restrained to allow accurate positioning of electrodes. The time between stunning and bleeding the animal (stun-stick time) is critical therefore electrodes should not be applied unless it is certain that the animal can be bled without delay. Electrodes must make good, clean contact with the head of the animal and jets of water may be used to reduce contact resistance. Once applied, the electrodes must remain in contact for at least the minimum recommended duration. An animal that resists placement of electrodes for greater than 30 seconds should be stunned using alternative methods, without delay. If animals do not show behaviours indicative of a good stun, they must be re-stunned immediately using the backup if appropriate. Stunned animals must be bled without delay.
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The method of killing must be employed in a manner that minimises the risk of causing pain, fear or distress to the animals. Cattle, sheep and goats may be killed using head-to-body electrical stunning (electrocution) or free bullet. Signs of an effective kill are listed in the table below.
legs collapse and fold underneath the body
|animal collapses immediately
|animal is rigid whilst current is applied
||no rhythmic breathing
|muscles tense and the tail flexes outwards
||no corneal reflex
|body eventually relaxes with no further movement is seen
||twitching and convulsions may start shortly afterwards
Since these methods kill the animal outright, bleeding immediately is not required for welfare reasons but it is important for quality reasons. When using free bullet, the animal must be restrained appropriately and the situation should be safe with a suitable backdrop that stops the bullet without risk of ricochet. The ammunition should be sufficiently strong to kill the animal with one shot. Bleeding may be achieved by a chest stick (recommended) or throat cut.
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