Literature shows that unborn fetuses during the last third of gestation, are able to experience pain. It is suggested that suppressive factors cause a decreased level of consciousness during pregnancy in the fetus, and that, depending on species, the newborns become conscious after a few hours to several days or weeks after birth. About this reduced level of consciousness during gestation, opinions differ.
During slaughter and bleeding of the dam fetal oxygen level decreases resulting within a minute result in a flattening of the EEG, which is associated with unconsciousness. It is stated that, when using a proper method of killing, no discomfort can be apparent in the unborn fetus. In addition, it is recommended to leave the embryo within the uterus to prevent breathing and thereby prevent an increasing oxygen level as this would make it conscious. The newborn should then be stunned and killed separately.
There is a large variation in the number of slaughtered pregnant animals within the Netherlands. Pregnancy is not always detected and the duration of pregnancy is difficult to estimate. The uteri are left intact according to current recommendations.
On this basis, we conclude that given current knowledge and general opinion, welfare of the fetus is not at stake. New scientific experimental research should reveal the consciousness level of the fetus during slaughter and killing procedures to subscribe the current point of view.