THE UNITED KINGDOM, London. The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has raised an urgent question with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) over new slaughter regulations for England that came into force on Thursday 5 November.
The BVA has welcomed new provisions in the rules to improve welfare at slaughter, such as the requirement for large slaughterhouses to have an Animal Welfare Officer and the introduction of Certificates of Competence.
However, it is concerned by Defra’s decision not to include stunning parameters for poultry killed in accordance with religious rites in the new Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (WATOK) Regulations.
European legislation on welfare at slaughter includes rules on stunning following work by the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa) to evaluate parameters for electrical waterbath stunning of poultry.
The BVA said there is a high risk that if the parameters in electrical waterbath stunning for poultry killed in accordance with religious rites are not correctly set and implemented, a percentage of those birds may be immobilised rather than stunned and therefore still conscious at the time of slaughter, causing avoidable animal suffering.
The BVA said it has previously called for European legislation to be implemented in full through WATOK, and is concerned that removing the requirement for parameters in electrical waterbath stunning removes the legal guarantee for effective stunning before slaughter.
The organisation has written to Defra to seek answers on how the new legislation will ensure all poultry are effectively stunned before slaughter.