Animals in British slaughterhouses are correctly stunned before slaughter in more than 99% of cases, according to official figures released by the Government.
The new figures address the myth that animals are suffering welfare compromises in large numbers – a statement used by those who support the practice of slaughter without pre-stunning.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has been calling for an end to the practice of non-stun slaughter on the grounds of animal welfare, and its position is supported by the Farm Animal Welfare Committee, Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and the Humane Slaughter Association.
Those who oppose BVA’s position on non-stun slaughter have suggested mis-stunning occurs in large numbers, causing a greater welfare problem than slaughter without stunning, quoting figures of 9%-31% from a Europe-wide European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) report in 2004.
The new figures reveal that in 2013 there were only nine reports of mis-stunning incidents in cattle (0.0004% of cattle slaughtered) and three reports in sheep (0.00002%).
These reports are made by official veterinarians working in abattoirs and collated by the Food Standards Agency on behalf of Defra.
Reported incidents of mis-stunning in poultry totalled 13 in 2013, but as poultry are usually slaughtered on a line system, a single incident will normally represent more than one animal.
It is, therefore, not possible to calculate the percentage of mis-stuns against the total slaughter numbers.
Commenting on the new figures, BVA president Robin Hargreaves said: “These new official figures reveal mis-stunning is extremely rare in British abattoirs and expose the myth that mis-stunning is a greater animal welfare problem than non-stun slaughter.
“Of course, any incident of mis-stunning must be acted upon and the public should be reassured there is legislation in place to ensure mis-stunned animals are immediately re-stunned to render them unconscious.
“Each incident is recorded and immediate and appropriate action is taken to address any problems.
“As veterinary surgeons our number one priority is animal welfare and that is why we continue to call for an end to non-stun slaughter, which unnecessarily compromises welfare at the time of slaughter.
“We are pleased the new figures will help ensure the debate takes place with all of the facts.”
- For a vet student’s perspective on slaughter without stunning, read Jordan Sinclair’s latest blog post.