Article, General Session

WOAH Members adopt a revised standard on animal welfare during slaughter 

Animal Welfare during slaughter_Shot of a young farmer tending to his flock of chickens in the field
Amidst growing concerns over animal welfare in slaughterhouses, the newly adopted revised international standard on animal welfare during slaughter at the 91st General Session of the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) signifies a pivotal moment in addressing these pressing issues.

Beyond the ethical obligation to treat animals with dignity, ensuring their welfare also translates into tangible benefits for various stakeholders. By prioritising animal welfare, slaughterhouses not only enhance product value but contribute to food safety and product quality, mitigating the risk of contamination and reducing instances of meat spoilage. This commitment to quality assurance not only safeguards consumer health but also enhances consumer trust and loyalty, ultimately resulting in improved economic returns and sustainability for the industry as a whole. 

Towards safer and more ethical slaughter 

To support the safe and ethical slaughter of animals for human consumption, a revised standard on animal welfare during slaughter (chapter 7.5 of the Terrestrial Code) has been adopted by the World Assembly of Delegates during WOAH’s 91st General Session.  

The standard focuses on ensuring good animal welfare conditions during slaughter operations. Notably, it provides animal-based measures to assess the level of welfare and recommends remedial and corrective actions to be applied, when necessary. Including animal welfare indicators is key to support the implementation of the recommendations included in this chapter. Moreover, through comprehensive training and competency measures, the standard emphasises the critical role of personnel in upholding ethical standards and highlights the importance of training in understanding species-specific behaviours, recognising signs of distress, and implementing preventive actions.

Additionally, the standard delves into the impact of premises design and equipment choice on animal welfare, noting considerations such as thermal comfort, ease of movement, and injury prevention. It provides detailed recommendations for handling free-moving animals during unloading and restraint, stressing the significance of preventive equipment, proper lighting, and minimising distractions to reduce stress in animals and ensure humane treatment. Furthermore, the chapter addresses welfare concerns related to stunning, promoting effective methods, along with the monitoring of stunning effectiveness to uphold ethical standards throughout the slaughter process. 

The significance of adopting international standards on animal welfare during slaughter cannot be overstated. It underscores a collective responsibility to ensure ethical treatment throughout the slaughter process, acknowledging that the welfare of animals is not just a moral imperative but a shared obligation. By prioritising animal welfare, stakeholders not only uphold ethical standards but also contribute to the wellbeing of workers and the assurance of product quality.

Furthermore, it is essential to adopt these standards to support Members who do not yet have a regulatory framework in place in this area. Providing a unified and robust set of guidelines helps ensure that all Members, regardless of their current regulatory status, can achieve a high standard of animal welfare. Therefore, it is imperative for all involved parties to protect animal welfare, recognising that doing so benefits not only the animals themselves but also the workers who care for them and the consumers who rely on safe and ethically produced products. 

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