Neck Cutting Following Stunning

WATOK Schedule 2, Part 5, paragraph 42(2) requires that a person engaged in the bleeding of an animal which has been simple stunned2 must ensure that the bleeding is:

a)      rapid, profuse and complete;

b)      completed before the animal regains consciousness; and

c)      carried out by severing the two carotid arteries or the vessels from which they arise.

2Simple stunning in Annex I of Regulation 1099/2009 includes head-only electrical stunning and head-to-body electrical stunning.

Birds should be bled as soon as possible, within 15 seconds of stunning. Neck cutting must sever both of the carotid arteries or the vessels from which they arise. This method is recommended to ensure death occurs before consciousness can be regained. A sharp, clean knife should be used to cut across the front of the neck just below the head.

Neck Cut

Positioning of the knife for bleeding chickens following stunning. Both carotid arteries must be severed.

Applying a cut inside the beak (ie beak or mouth sticking) cannot guarantee to sever both carotid arteries or the vessels from which they arise, consequently the use of this method will NOT comply with the legal requirement of cutting both carotids and ensuring a rapid death.  Cutting both carotid arteries, or the vessels from which they arise, ensures a rapid and complete death.  A deep horizontal cut into the neck muscle, across the front and both sides of the throat just below the jaw line (ventral cut) is a reliable method of severing both common carotid arteries and both external jugular veins (see the HSA Technical Information Poster Effective Neck-cutting of Poultry HSA Technical Information Posters which is available in 22 languages).

When slaughtering birds for consumption, for food safety reasons, birds should be kept suspended for a while after neck-cutting to allow time for the blood to drain from the carcase. Turkeys and geese must be allowed to bleed for a minimum of two minutes, and other birds for one and a half minutes, before plucking and evisceration can begin.

Checking Unconsciousness:

It is important to check unconsciousness by the absence of a blink reflex when the cornea (the surface of the eyeball) is touched. Presence of a blink reflex must be acted upon immediately: it may not indicate full consciousness but the return of this reflex after stunning is a sign of some brain function returning and it indicates the possibility that consciousness may also be returning. Do not hesitate to repeat the stun or use a back up method.

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