The Humane Slaughter Association (HSA) has presented its inaugural Humane Slaughter Award to Craig Johnson and his colleagues at Massey University, New Zealand, for groundbreaking research investigating pain in cattle slaughtered without prior stunning.

The HSA is an independent registered charity that works throughscientific, technical and educational advances to promote highstandards of food animal welfare during transport, at markets and atslaughter. The Humane Slaughter Award was established by the HSA topromote and recognise significant advances towards the welfare oflivestock at slaughter.

The first such award, accompanied by a £1,000 prize that will be puttowards further research in this field, was presented to Dr Johnson onbehalf of the HSA by Christopher Wathes of the RVC, chairman of theFarm Animal Welfare Council, at an event held at the Farmers Club inLondon on October 6.

Prior to the award presentation, Dr Johnson gave a talk on the researchand its findings to an audience representing industry, as well as theveterinary profession and scientific, Government, animal welfare andother interests.

Dr Johnson is associate professor of veterinary neurophysiology at theInstitute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences at MasseyUniversity. Along with co-researchers Troy Gibson, Kevin Stafford andDavid Mellor, he used new electroencephalogram analysis technology toinvestigate the effects of slaughter of cattle by ventral neck cutwithout prior stunning.

The results were reported in a series of five papers published in the New Zealand Veterinary Journalin April 2009, and concluded: “This… demonstrates clearly for the firsttime that the act of slaughter by ventral neck cut incision isassociated with noxious stimulation that would be expected to beperceived as painful…”

Animals were anaesthetised so that no pain was felt during theexperiments – the EEG analysis showed that it would have been had noanaesthetic been administered. The research was funded by DEFRA and bythe Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of New Zealand.

James Kirkwood, chief executive and scientific director of the HSA said: “Scientific advances have resulted in major welfareimprovements in livestock slaughter methods during the past century, byleading to both better understanding of the impacts of variousprocedures on animals and to better technology.

“However, a great manyanimals around the world are slaughtered without prior stunning. Thiswork provides significant support for the value of stunning animalsprior to slaughter to prevent pain and distress, and the HSA hopes thatit will help to change attitudes to the importance of stunning.”

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