The process at the slaughterhouse must be as comfortable as possible for the animals; with no signs of pain or fear that could have been avoided. Animals show how they are doing in all kinds of ways. By studying their behaviour, we can improve welfare in the last stage of the animal’s life. This is how Wageningen works on improving the quality of life.
The killing of farm animals is inseparable from animal husbandry. Wageningen University & Research (WUR) studies how this last stage of life can be passed with as little stress and suffering as possible. We focus on animals that are slaughtered for human consumption, including fish and other marine life. This dossier provides an overview of the available knowledge from research on slaughtering with and without stunning.
Stunning of livestock
In Europe, animals must be unconscious before being slaughtered to avoid fear and unnecessary suffering. WUR researches indicators to measure animal welfare and awareness related to methods of stunning. We also develop protocols that are used to ensure animal welfare at the slaughterhouse.
Skin lesions: indicator for fighting or rough handling at slaughter
Review of arrival and lairage management at pig slaughterhouses (version 1.0)
Lameness: indicator of pigs' decreased ability to walk at slaughter
Huddling, shivering and panting: indicators of thermal stress at slaughter,
Fatigued and dead pigs: indicators of acute stress and poor condition of pigs during transport and at slaughter
Access to water and food: indicators to assess the risks for thirst and hunger at slaughter
Validation of indicators used to assess unconsciousness in veal calves at slaughter
Time to Loss of Consciousness and Its Relation to Behavior in Slaughter Pigs during Stunning with 80 or 95% Carbon Dioxide
Effectiveness of tail-first dry electrical stunning, followed by immersion in ice water as a slaughter (killing) procedure for turbot (Scophthalmus maximus) and common sole (Solea solea)
Effect of pre-slaughter handling and stunning on meat quality
Assessing unconsciousness in livestock at slaughter
Articles in journals
Research on slaughter without stunning
Before animals are slaughtered, they must first be stunned so that they are unconscious. An exception applies to slaughter according to Jewish ritual (kosher meat) and Islamic ritual (halal meat). There are special rules for ritual slaughter without stunning.
In the covenant ‘onbedwelmd slachten volgens religieuze riten’ (i.e. slaughtering without stunning according to religious rituals’) of June 2012 the Dutch government, slaughterhouses and religious organisations agreed to improve slaughtering so that it is consistent with Islamic or Jewish traditions.
Wageningen University & Research carried out a number of studies into the possible consequences of the measures in the covenant.
Reports following the convenant:
In the convenant topics were pointed out that needed more research in order to ensure or improve animal welfare. As a result, the following reports by Wageningen Livestock Research were published:
EU project BOREST on the duration until unconsciousness:
View this page by Wageningen Livestock Research: