From 1 January 2013 new rules will come into force in the EU that will require commercial duck and goose producers to pre-stun their birds for slaughter.
All farms that kill poultry on site to supply meat, either directly to the final consumer or to local retailers, will need to comply with the new Council Regulation on the Protection of Animals at the time of Killing.
Under the regulation, producer-processors must spare animals from avoidable pain, distress or suffering during killing and related operations. This means animals shall only be killed after stunning in accordance with the methods and specific requirements set out in the Regulation (see Table below).
Killing and related operations must be carried out by persons with the appropriate level of competence, though these minimum requirements are likely to already be met by many UK producers since they are similar to those under the current UK law (the Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995).
Of all the permitted methods, the Humane Slaughter Association recommends the use of captive bolt stunning for ducks and geese. This specialised equipment has been scientifically researched and shown to cause an immediate loss of consciousness.
To target the brain, the stunner is positioned at the appropriate place on the bird’s head. After stunning, the bird will convulse involuntarily. Further details on where to obtain a stunner and how to apply it correctly can be found in the HSA booklet Practical Slaughter of Poultry – A Guide for the Small Producer.
Captive bolts can also humanely stun chickens and turkeys.
Immediately after successful stunning, animals are usually bled to ensure they do not recover consciousness.
The current regulation requires processors to cut at least one carotid artery, but under the new rules, the “simple stunning” methods must be followed by systematic severance of both carotid arteries. Therefore some producers may need to alter their bleeding practices.
A reliable technique is a ventral neck cut across the front of the bird’s throat, close to the head. To sever the carotids it is essential to cut into the muscle of the neck and up to the vertebrae.
Producers should monitor the DEFRA website for any further information announced between now and 2013.
• Jade Spence is the HSA’s technical officer, based at the association’s headquarters in Hertfordshire