A decade on: where is the UK poultry industry for emergency on-farm killing?

Clarkson, J. M. , Paraskevopoulou, A. and Martin, J. E. (2023) A decade on: where is the UK poultry industry for emergency on-farm killing? Poultry Science, 102(5), 102604. (doi: 10.1016/j.psj.2023.102604)

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Millions of poultry are farmed intensively every year across the United Kingdom (UK) to produce both meat and eggs. There are inevitable situations that require birds to be emergency killed on farm to alleviate pain and suffering. In Europe and the UK, emergency methods are regulated by the European Council Regulation (EC) No. 1099/2009 and The Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing Regulations (England 2015; Scotland 2012; Wales and Northern Ireland 2014). Cervical dislocation has been reported to be the most widely used method prior to these legislative changes which took place from 1 January 2013. Based on limited scientific evidence and concern for bird welfare, these legislative changes incorporated restrictions based on bird weight for both manual (≤3 kg) and mechanical (≤5 kg) cervical dislocation, and introduced an upper limit in the number of applications for manual cervical dislocation (up to 70 birds per person per day). Furthermore, it removed methods which showed evidence of crushing injury to the neck. However, since legal reform new scientific evidence surrounding the welfare consequences of cervical dislocation and the development of novel methods for killing poultry in small numbers on farm have become available. Whether the UK poultry industry have adopted these novel methods, and whether legislative reform resulted in a change in the use of cervical dislocation in the UK remains unknown. Responses from 215 respondents working across the UK poultry industry were obtained. Despite legal reform, manual cervical dislocation remains the most prevalent method used across the UK for killing poultry on farm (used by 100% of farms) and remains the preferred method amongst respondents (81.9%). The use of alternative methods such as Livetec Nex® and captive bolt guns were available to less than half of individuals and were not frequently employed for broilers and laying hens. Our data suggests there is a lack of a clear alternative to manual cervical dislocation for individuals working with larger species and a lack of gold standard methodology. This risks bird welfare at killing and contributes to inconsistency across the industry. We suggest providing stakeholders with practical alternatives prior to imposing legislative changes and effective knowledge transfer between the scientific community and stakeholders to promote positive change and protect bird welfare.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:Alexandra Paraskevopoulou reports financial support was partly provided for this research by the Humane Slaughter Association (HSA) through a Student/Trainee Scholarship: Dorothy Sidley award for Advances in Animal Welfare during Transport, Marketing & Slaughter (summer 2021). The Roslin Institute is funded by a BBSRC Institute Strategic Program Grant BB/P013759/1.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Clarkson, Dr Jasmine and Martin, Miss Jessica
Authors: Clarkson, J. M., Paraskevopoulou, A., and Martin, J. E.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Biodiversity, One Health & Veterinary Medicine
Journal Name:Poultry Science
ISSN (Online):1525-3171
Published Online:21 March 2023
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2023 The Authors
First Published:First published in Poultry Science 102(5): 102604
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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