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You are here: HomeOur WorkWelfare at Slaughter
Image of Sheep in a field, looking at the camera

Welfare at Slaughter

Around the world, millions of animals are killed for human consumption every day. Although slaughter forms only a brief period within an animal’s life, it is arguably the time when the potential for poor welfare is greatest.

Over the last 100 years the HSA has been responsible for many of the animal welfare improvements seen at slaughter. The HSA’s first major project was aimed at replacing the pole-axe, a crude and inefficient implement used for stunning animals, with the captive-bolt stunner, a humane, mechanically-operated stunner. In the early 1920s it carried out an eight month demonstration of the effectiveness of the captive-bolt stunner at a slaughterhouse in Islington, London. As a result of the HSA’s efforts, a bye-law requiring the use of humane stunners was adopted by 28 London boroughs, and later by 494 other UK local authorities.

When the HSA was founded, there were no laws protecting animal welfare at slaughter. The HSA has worked with local, national and international authorities to develop legislation to protect animal welfare.  The HSA has also offered practical assistance in times of need, such as providing almost 500 captive-bolt stunners to licensed slaughtermen across the UK during the Second World War, and assisting during the UK foot and mouth crises of 1966 and 2001.

The HSA is a leading source of support and funding for essential scientific research within its field and has assisted the application of many advances into the working practices of the meat industry. The HSA helped to develop the first hand-held, low voltage electrical stunner for poultry; it arranged for the first high-throughput automatic poultry stunner to be trialled in the UK in 1960s; and it spearheaded the development of a prototype mobile slaughterhouse in the 1990s. More recently, the HSA has promoted the use of humane stunning equipment for farmed fish, and is currently supporting the development of a new device for the humane killing of chickens in emergencies.

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