Animal welfare at the slaughterhouse

The process during slaughter 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 before slaughter

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.

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. In 2017 an addendum to the convenant was added.

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Publications about slaughter without stunning

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:

Other publications

Links about slaughter without stunning