Guidelines for Red Meat Abattoirs
The Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW (AWA) programme and food label promote the well-being of animals and the sustainability of farms and abattoirs. Our label adds value to meat products for those people who are raising and handling animals by connecting conscientious consumers with farmers and meat processors using high-welfare practices.
The Guidelines for Red Meat abattoirs should be followed by abattoirs that slaughter cattle, pigs, sheep, goats and deer. Abattoirs that slaughter poultry should refer to the Guidelines for White Meat Abattoirs.
1.0.1 Flooring where live animals are moved must provide good traction to prevent falling or slipping.
Note: Falling and slipping can make handling more difficult, cause injury for animals and staff, and damage meat quality. In cold weather, salt or coarse dairy lime may be needed to prevent slipping and falling due to ice.
1.0.2 Flooring must not cause hoof or foot damage.
1.0.3 Facilities must be designed, constructed and maintained in such a way that they do not pose a risk, or inflict injury or damage to the animals.
1.0.4 Action must be taken to reduce sources of distraction such as shafts of light, flooring contrasts, shadows on the floor, and foreign objects from all areas where live animals are moved to encourage their movement.
Note: These situations and objects are known to cause animals to balk and panic.
1.0.5 Action must be taken to decrease human activity and noise in any area accessed by the animals.
Note: Noise and movement are known to impede easy movement of animals.
1.1.1 All animals must be moved in a calm and consistent manner taking advantage of species specific behaviour such as flight distance.
1.1.2 When handling or moving animals stress from loud noises and rapid movements must be minimised.
1.1.3 Animals must not be forced to move if there is not enough space ahead for them to move into.
1.1.4 The use of electrical prods in normal animal handling is prohibited.
Note: Electrical prods may be used as a last resort, in the case of risk to health and safety of animals or of employees. The user must be able to demonstrate that not using the prod would result in an immediate risk to the welfare of the animal or an employee.
1.1.5 There must be a goal of no electrical prod use.
1.1.6 The abattoir must monitor any use of electrical prods.
1.1.7 If it is found that an electrical prod was used when there was no risk to the health or safety of animals or employees alternative methods of animal movement must be introduced.
1.1.8 If it is found that electrical prods are frequently needed in a particular area of the abattoir that area should be redesigned.
1.1.9 Abuse or maltreatment of animals is prohibited. The following actions are prohibited and are considered by AGW to constitute animal cruelty:
18.104.22.168 Shackling, dragging, hanging, cutting, bleeding or dressing any sensible animal
22.214.171.124 Beating or striking any animal
126.96.36.199 Intentional electrical prodding or poking of an animal in a sensitive area such as the anus, the eyes or the genitals
188.8.131.52 Picking up or throwing a sheep by its wool
184.108.40.206 Intentionally driving animals over an animal that has fallen or will not move
220.127.116.11 Any other action that causes intentional harm to an animal
1.1.10 Vibrating prods must be equipped with a blunt tip
1.2 Downed animals
1.2.1 Downed animals that cannot rise and move spontaneously under their own strength to get off a transport vehicle must be immediately euthanised in a manner that renders them immediately insensible to pain.
Note: Please contact AGW if further information on appropriate methods of euthanasia is required.
1.2.2 Animals that have been unloaded to holding pens and are subsequently found to be unable to rise and move spontaneously under their own strength must be segregated and allowed to rest comfortably to see if they will recover.
Note: Suitable bedding should be provided and moribund animals must have access to water.
1.2.3 Animals that show no sign of recovery after segregation and rest must be euthanised.
1.2.4 Downed animals must not be dragged or moved for disposal prior to euthanisation.
1.2.5 Meat from downed animals that have been euthanised must not carry the Animal Welfare Approved seal.
1.3 Inspection of facilities
1.3.1 The unloading area, holding pens and stunning area must be inspected before operations commence each day and at intervals thereafter to ensure cleanliness and safety.
1.3.2 Inspections of the unloading area, holding pens and stunning area along with any problems and their correction must be documented.
2.0 UNLOADING AREAS
2.0.1 Animals must be unloaded from transport vehicles as soon as possible after arrival at the abattoir.
2.0.2 Animals must not remain on transport vehicles longer than one hour after arriving at the abattoir.
2.0.3 If there is an unavoidable delay or breakdown that means animals must remain on the transport vehicle for longer than one hour the abattoir must make sure they have shade, shelter, ventilation and water as appropriate.
Note: The best air flow and comfort for the animals may be maintained by keeping the transport vehicle moving.
2.0.4 Unloading areas must be of a height to allow animals to unload from transportation without jumping or leaping.
2.0.5 Unloading areas, alleys, and ramps must provide enough room such that animals can walk freely down the ramp.
2.0.6 Lighting must be sufficient to encourage animal movement in unload areas.
Note: Animals prefer to move from dark to light.
3.0 HOLDING PENS AND ALLEYS
3.0.1 The water supply system in pens must be designed, constructed and maintained so as to allow all animals at all times access to clean water without being injured or limited in their movements.
Where abattoirs have field lairages, in the absence of a natural source of water, drinking facilities must be provided.
Note: This is a requirement under EC1099-2099 The Protection of Animals at the Time of Killing and The Welfare of Animals at Time of Killing (England) Regulations 2015.
3.0.2 Holding pens or any other areas where animals are to be held must provide adequate room to allow animals to access water.
3.0.3 Pens must allow protection of animals against extreme heat, cold, and inclement weather. This could include ventilation, shade, wind breaks, the ability to wet animals with a coarse spray, and bedding depending on the season and climate.
3.0.4 If the design of the holding pen allows it, bedding must be provided when animals are held overnight.
Note: It may not be possible to provide bedding where it would impede drainage.
3.0.5 Animals from different farms or transport groups must not be mixed in holding pens.
4.0 STUNNING AREA, RESTAINING SYSTEMS, AND STUN BOX
4.0.1 Stun boxes with sloped flooring or flooring otherwise designed to make animals fall are prohibited.
4.0.2 Restraining systems must be designed to minimise stress to the animal and ensure that animals can breathe normally in restraint.
4.0.3 Appropriate light must be provided, if necessary, to encourage animals enter stun boxes.
4.0.4 Distractions such as hanging objects and loud noises in the stunning area must be eliminated.
4.0.5 If animals do not enter the stun box freely all activity must cease on the kill floor OR the view from the stun box to the kill floor must be blocked.
Note: Movement or noise causes animals to balk so animals will not enter places or will panic where they see movement or hear excessive noise on the kill floor.
4.0.6 The stun box must be designed or adapted to ensure effective stunning of the species being slaughtered can take place.
4.0.7 In abattoirs that electrically stun animals, the box or stunning area must be made or covered in a non-conducting material.
5.0 STUNNING AND SLAUGHTER
5.0.1 Stunning must render animals immediately insensible to pain on the first attempt.
5.0.2 Stunning must ensure animals remain insensible to pain until the animal dies due to slaughter or blood loss.
5.0.3 All animals must be rendered insensible to pain prior to being shackled, hoisted, thrown, cast, or cut.
Note: This is a requirement of the Humane Slaughter Act. Signs of insensibly include non-coordinated movement, limp and floppy head, a non blinking blank stare, and in cattle tongue hanging out of the mouth. Signs of sensibility include: natural (not seizure) blinking, rhythmic breathing (not gasping or “puffing”), eye tracking, righting reflex (the lifting of the head up, not side to side), or vocalisation. Kicking, trembling, and movement of the body are not reliable indicators of sensibility.
5.0.4 If any sign of sensibility is observed at any time after stunning, the animal must be re-stunned immediately.
Note: In some abattoirs it is the policy to carry out a second “safety” stun with gun or captive bolt, or a second electrical stun to maintain insensibility. This is acceptable if the animal is rendered insensible on the first stun.
5.0.5 Equipment used to stun, shackle, bleed and kill an animal must be kept and maintained in line with the manufacturer’s instructions.
5.0.6 Equipment used to stun, shackle, bleed and kill and animal must only be used within the design parameters described by the manufacturer.
5.0.7 For all stunning equipment there must be a manual back-up or reserve equipment for use in case of emergency or breakdown.
5.0.8 Staff that carry out stunning and bleeding must have been trained and be competent to use the available equipment.
5.1 Approved methods of stunning
5.1.1 The approved methods for rendering cattle and deer insensible are:
18.104.22.168 Penetrating captive bolt.
22.214.171.124 Non-penetrating captive bolt.
126.96.36.199 Free bullet from a gun.
188.8.131.52 Head and heart electrocution.
Note: The use of a Non-penetrating captive bolt for animals over 10kg is prohibited in the UK and Europe.
5.1.2 The approved methods for rendering pigs insensible are:
184.108.40.206 Controlled atmosphere stunning or killing using anoxic gases.
220.127.116.11 Controlled atmosphere stunning or killing using CO2.
18.104.22.168 Free bullet from a gun.
22.214.171.124 Head and heart electrocution.
126.96.36.199 Head only electric stunning.
188.8.131.52 Penetrating captive bolt.
Note: If captive bolt stunners are used for pigs the equipment must be maintained, positioned and used such that an adequate stun is obtained. See also section 5.3 below.
5.1.3 The approved methods for rendering sheep and goats insensible are:
184.108.40.206 Penetrating captive bolt.
220.127.116.11 Non-penetrating captive bolt.
18.104.22.168 Free bullet from a gun.
22.214.171.124 Head and heart electrocution.
126.96.36.199 Head only stunning.
Note: The use of a Non-penetrating captive bolt for animals over 10kg is prohibited in the UK and Europe.
5.2 Use of free bullet from a gun
5.2.1 When using a gun, a type that has sufficient power and calibre for the species in question must be used
5.2.2 Persons using guns to stun animals must be trained in safe handling and proper stunning placement as angles and where to aim vary from species to species.
5.2.3 If animals show signs of recovery after use of a free bullet action must be taken to assess and resolve the reason.
5.3 Use of a penetrating or non-penetrating captive bolt stunner
5.3.1 When using a captive bolt gun or mushroom stunner a type of sufficient power with the right cartridge or propellant according to the manufacturer’s specifications must be used.
5.3.2 Captive bolt stunners must be cleaned and maintained according to manufacturers specification
5.3.3 Persons using captive bolt guns or mushroom stunners must be trained in safe handling and proper stunning placement as angles and where to aim vary from species to species.
5.3.4 A penetrative captive bolt must enter the brain to provide an effective stun.
5.3.5 If animals show signs of recovery after this type of stunning action must be taken to assess and resolve the reason.
5.4 Use of electrical stunning
Electrical stunning encompasses three methods. Head only stunning, head-to-back stunning and stunning in two cycles; first across the head and secondly across the chest.
5.4.1 Electrical stunning must provide a strong enough current and be in contact with the animal for long enough so that it is immediately unconscious.
188.8.131.52 Note: In the UK and Europe, a minimum of 1.3 Amps must be passed through the brain to stun pigs.
184.108.40.206 A minimum of 1.00 Amps must be passed through the brain to stun sheep
5.4.2 Electrodes must be placed to span the brain of the animal.
5.4.3 Persons using electricity to stun animals must be trained in safe handling and proper stunning placement based on the species being stunned.
5.4.4 Stunning equipment must only be used on the species that the manufacturer recommends and which it is designed for.
5.4.5 Recommended Stun settings and voltages should be recorded when electrical stunning is in use.
5.4.6 Recommended Head followed by heart stunning which will kill rather than stun the animal should be used instead of head only stunning.
5.5 Use of Controlled Atmosphere Stunning (CAS) and Controlled Atmosphere Killing (CAK)
5.5.1 Recommended Controlled Atmosphere Stunning (CAS) and Controlled Atmosphere Killing (CAK) systems should be used to render pigs insensible.
5.5.2 The controlled atmosphere system must rapidly cause insensibility.
5.5.3 Persons using the gas stunner must be trained in proper use of the stunning system.
5.5.4 Recommended The use of anoxic gases rather than CO2 is recommended for both CAS and CAK.
5.5.5 The gas system must be used according to manufacturer’s instructions.
5.5.6 In a CO2 system no more than thirty seconds must elapse after a pig has entered the chamber before it is in a gas concentration of 85% or more.
5.5.7 In a CO2 system a dwell time of two and half minutes is required.
5.5.8 Gas concentration must be recorded.
5.5.9 No pig must enter the chamber if the displayed concentration by volume of carbon dioxide in the gas mixture falls below 80%.
5.6.1 Animals must be monitored to ensure there is no return to sensibility between stun and bleed out and if any are seen it must be re-stunned immediately.
5.6.2 All animals must be bled as soon as possible after stunning.
220.127.116.11 Sheep, goats and pigs stunned by methods that are normally non-recoverable, such as head to heart stun and penetrative captive bolt, must be bled within 60 seconds of stun.
18.104.22.168 Sheep, goats and pigs stunned by methods that are normally recoverable, such as head only electric stun or non-penetrative captive bolt, must be bled within 15 seconds of stun.
22.214.171.124 Cattle and bison must be bled as soon as possible and this must be within 60 seconds of stun.
126.96.36.199 Deer stunned by methods that are normally non-recoverable, such as penetrative captive bolt, must be bled within 20 seconds of stun.
5.6.3 The bleed wound must be large and allow rapid bleeding.
Note: The carotids or arteries from which they originate from must be severed, depending upon the species. The objective is to stop supply of oxygenated blood to the brain.
5.6.4 If more than one animal is loaded into the stun box the first animal must be stunned and bled before any further animals are stunned.
5.6.5 No dressing or other operation on the carcass must be carried out until at least 20 seconds after pigs, sheep and goats are fully bled and at least 30 seconds after cattle and bison are fully bled.
6.0 STAFF AND TRAINING
6.0.1 There should be a named individual responsible for animal welfare within the abattoir that has the authority to take action should any welfare issues arise.
6.0.2 Training in humane methods of animal handling must be made available to all staff working with live animals.
6.0.3 Staff must be trained to recognise signs of effective and ineffective stunning and signs of recovery of consciousness.
6.0.4 There must be clearly written standard operating procedures for every step of the operation and staff responsible for animal handling, stunning and slaughter must be familiar with these procedures.