Chickens loaded for slaughter© Tim Scrivener

Changes to the legal requirements for slaughtering poultry are on the way, following the publication of the new Welfare of Animals at Time of Killing (Watok) regulations.

The new rules, which are to be run on Defra’s behalf by the Food Standards Agency, require certain operators to apply for certificates of competence to slaughter or kill animals.

Richard Griffiths, British Poultry Council (BPS) food policy director, said producers with an existing Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) licence (Wask), should submit their applications for the new certificates by 8 December.

See also: Get poultry slaughter right this Christmas

Those who work with live animals and have three or more years’ experience, meaning they can claim “grandfather” rights, should do likewise.

Mr Griffiths added that, from 5 November, a three-month window will open for everyone else who needs a certificate of competence.

During this period, the official veterinarian will be able to grant temporary certificates.

Seasonal producers, or those with fewer than 10,000 birds, will not need an actual certificate, but do need to demonstrate a high level of competency.

He told Poultry World that the new system should run well, but added: “As this is a brand new and untested system, food business operators are advised to keep copies of all applications and proof of competence submitted, in case there are unforeseen delays.”

Charlie Mason, technical director at the Humane Slaughter Association, said time would tell whether there would be any delays, although he noted that the Watok regulations were similar to the Wask legislation, and that the Welsh government had administered the changes successfully.

Gas killing

Meanwhile, the RSPCA has announced changes to its Assured Scheme (formerly Freedom Food).

From January, except under very specific circumstances, abattoirs will no longer be able to shackle live birds, meaning they will need to use alternative systems to waterbath stunning, such as gas-killing systems.

Dr Marc Cooper, RSPCA farm animal science spokesman, said the change was being introduced after extensive research showed that alternative killing methods had major welfare benefits over traditional shackling and waterbath stunning.

“You are not inverting live birds and you are not handling them either.”

Mr Griffiths said BPC members had moved away from water bath stunning methods over the past few years and generally only smaller on-farm operators still used the system.