Nearly 100 participants from EU institutions, Member States, industry and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) met with scientific experts to discuss the identification of indicators and procedures to monitor animal welfare at slaughterhouses.
At the meeting on 30 January, EFSA presented its work in this field and facilitated the exchange of information and experience among scientists and stakeholders. EFSA’s Panel on Animal Health and Welfare Panel (AHAW) will consider information gathered at the meeting in preparing four scientific opinions to be published by end of 2013.
According to new EU legislation on animal welfare at slaughterhouses, business operators must carry out regular checks to ensure that animals do not present any signs of consciousness after stunning and before death.
As requested by the European Commission, the AHAW Panel will identify a set of science-based animal welfare indicators and sampling protocols to assess the effectiveness of stunning and slaughtering processes. Input from the meeting will help inform the preparation of four scientific opinions on procedures to monitor animal welfare at slaughterhouses focusing on bovines, pigs, chickens and turkeys, sheep and goats. EFSA will also systematically review the scientific literature and seek the contribution and views of experts and stakeholders through an online public consultation in summer 2013.
The meeting was welcomed by all participants as an opportunity to consider also the practical side of the assessment of animal welfare and the use of indicators at slaughterhouses.
A European Commission official said that EFSA’s work, including the constructive discussions held at the meeting, will contribute with science-based tools to the development of standardised procedures to monitor animal welfare at slaughterhouses. The official stressed the importance of an open dialogue between risk managers, risk assessors and relevant stakeholders to support such an innovative approach.
Animal welfare NGOs active in this field responded positively to the initiative. According to a participant, monitoring procedures introduced by the new EU legislation are an essential means to protect animal welfare at the time of killing. This constructive meeting showed promise for the identification of practical and usable indicators to ensure that animals are not exposed to avoidable suffering.
Animal welfare is an important part of EFSA’s remit. The safety of the food chain is indirectly affected by the welfare of animals, particularly those farmed for food production, due to the close links between animal welfare, animal health and food-borne diseases.