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Since the HSA was founded in 1911, scientific and technological developments have resulted in huge improvements in methods for slaughter and killing. One hundred years ago methods were often, literally, hit or miss. Now, modern methods, applied correctly, can very much more closely approach the humane ideal of consistently achieving slaughter or killing without pain or other unpleasant feelings. Over the decades, improved and scientifically-evaluated methods (many stimulated and supported by the HSA) have been developed for cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry and other species. These advances are continuing. A striking recent example is the development, within just the last 15 years, of methods for the humane slaughter of farmed fish.

The HSA funds essential research and other projects through grants and the Dorothy Sidley Scholarship scheme. In 2011, to mark the HSA’s centenary, the Association awarded a Research Training Scholarship for PhD research to improve livestock welfare at slaughter. The successful research project, investigating humane mechanical methods for killing poultry, based at the Scottish Rural University College, is in progress.

The HSA is often asked to collaborate in research into advances in welfare in transport and slaughter. Research areas in which HSA staff members have participated in recent years have included:

  • Development of electrical methods for killing farmed fish
  • Head-only electrical stunning systems for poultry
  • Welfare of sheep and cattle passing through livestock markets
  • Humane captive-bolt stunning of water buffalo

Additionally, the HSA organises conferences and workshops to facilitate knowledge exchange within and between academia and industry. In 2011, the HSA organised an international symposium on ‘Recent Advances in the Welfare of Livestock at Slaughter’ which attracted over 250 participants from 26 European, Asian, American and Australasian countries. Recent workshop topics have included:

  • Developments in automated electrical stunning systems for poultry
  • Catching and handling of waterfowl
  • International training workshop on welfare standards concerning stunning and killing of animals in slaughterhouses or for disease control reasons (attracting participants from 52 countries)

For further information on any of our research activities and services, contact the HSA office.

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