B.Sc. (1st Class Honours) in Agriculture, Aberdeen University, 1973 Ph.D. in Animal Physiology, Bristol University, 1977.
Frazer Bursary, Aberdeen University 1970-73
Skinner Prize in Agriculture, Aberdeen University 1979-93
Fleming Prize, Editors of the British Veterinary Journal, 1984.
Langley Prize, Association of Veterinary Anaesthetists, 1984.
British Society of Animal Production/Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Award for Innovative Developments in Animal Welfare, 1990. The citation for the award
was "for his personal contribution to the understanding of the science of pre-slaughter stunning of animals and its application to the improvement of farm animal welfare"
Present position: Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Meat Animal Science at the University of Bristol's School of Veterinary Science. Deputy Head of Department, in-charge of the Department's work on animal welfare. Responsible for coordinating research into stunning and slaughter in cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, quail, geese, deer, rabbits trout and salmon; preslaughter handling and transport of cattle, sheep' pigs and chickens; on-farm welfare of chickens and turkeys; meat hygiene. Also involved in research into antemortem and slaughtering factors that affect meat quality, and teaches undergraduate students and postgraduate veterinarians on Animal Welfare, Meat Science and Poultry Science. Has produced research work which has helped towards drafting regulations and recommendations on stunning and slaughter. Acted as scientific expert in the Council of Europe's hearings during which a Code of Conduct on preslaughter handling, stunning and slaughter was prepared. Member of the Animal Welfare Section of the Scientific Veterinary Committee of the CEC. Helped to draft the proposed regulations on stunning and slaughter prepared by the CEC. Member of the Scientific Advisory panel of the World Society for the Protection of Animals. Ethical representative on the Technical and Ethical Committee of the British Society of Animal Production. Publication list appended.
I have been asked to undertake investigations and prepare a report which consider the animal welfare aspects of meat production with a view to clarifying and commenting on the points
(i) Page 5 of the Particulars of Justification and Fair Comment served by B.M. Birnberg & Co on 03/12/90 and entitled Slaughter of Animals.
(ii) Pages 13 and 14 of the Further and Better Particulars of the Particulars of Justification and Fair Comment signed by Helen Marie Steel and David Morris on 23/10/91 and entitled Under Slaughter of Animals (ii).
This report will be divided into the following parts:
i ) General comments
ii) Rearing system used for chickens.
iii) Pig breeding and fattening units
iv) Chicken preslaughter handling and slaughter
v) Pig preslaughter handling and slaughter
vi) Cattle preslaughter handling and slaughter
vii) Conclusions with regard to the allegations.
i ) General Comments
a) The meat industry in the United Kingdom
Over 730 million animals are slaughtered for meat consumption in the United Kingdom every year (Table 1). The welfare of these animals on the farm and in the abattoirs is controlled by legislation and by recommendations which are described in the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (MAFF) Codes of Practice. There are six Codes of Practice which are relevant to the present case, and these are appended with this report.
Table 1. Number of farmed animals slaughtered for meat consumption in the United Kingdom every year.
Like all industries the meat and livestock industry fosters a certain amount of jargon and technology. An article entitled Humane Slaughter which was published in the popular press is appended in the hope that it might give an insight and better awareness of some of the issues involved in the abattoir business. It is assumed that the reader is reasonably familiar with farming practices.
b) McDonald's Restaurants Limited animal welfare specification and suppliers in the
I have been informed that:
ii ) Rearing system used for chickens
A broiler unit was visited on 19/4/93 with a view to inspecting the birds for leg weakness and the provision of adequate lighting, heating and space for the birds. The shed had been stocked with 25260 chicks of which 16882 were male and 8378 were female. The two sexes were reared separately to 42 days of age when the females were due to be sent for slaughter, and thereafter the males would be allowed to range over the entire shed up to 53 days of age, when they were due to be slaughtered. I was told that this was the normal procedure for the company.
At the time of the visit the birds were 41 days old, and the females were due to be despatched for slaughter the following day. This would correspond to the time when the shed would have the highest stocking density in terms of kg per m2. In this shed there had been 673 birds (487 male and 186 females) which had either died or been culled, and, according to a sample weighing the average weight of the males was 2.1 kg and the females 1.8 kg. From this it was calculated that the stocking density was 36.7 kg per m2. This is slightly higher than that recommended in the Code of Practice, but in my opinion it would have been within normal limits for the broiler industry in the United Kingdom.
From the above figures it can be calculated that the overall mortality plus cull rate was 2.6%. In my opinion this would be within normal limits in comparison with the broiler industry at large, but the validity of this remark would depend upon whether an adequate level of culling had been performed up to 41 days of age in the flock in question. The main reasons for culling are usually undersized birds (poor growth) and inability to stand or walk, and I was informed that these were the usual reasons with this particular company. Inability to stand and walk was assessed on 19/4/93 by gait scoring a random sample of 152 birds (84 male and 68 female). The method used was the same as that reported by Kestin et al (1992), whereby walking ability was given a 'gait score' (5 = unable to walk, down to 0 for a bird with a perfect gait). Birds with a gait score of 4 or 5 should be culled. In the sample of 152 birds examined on 19/4/93 there were no birds with a gait score of 4 or 5, 10 (7%) with a gait score of 3 (7 male, 3 females), 37 (24%) with 2 (27 male, 10 female), 46 (30%) with 1 (27 male, 19 female) and 59 (39%) with 0 (23 male, 36 female). This compares with 2% having a gait score of 5, 4% score 4, 21% score 3, 43% score 2, 22% score 1 and 8% score 0 for four commercial flocks reported by Kestin et al (1992). Overall, the sample of 152 birds compared very favourably.
The absence of grade 4 and 5 in this flock could indicate two things. Firstly that the standard of inspection by the stockman was good. Since the level of culling was low vis. the records kept at the shed showed that only 25 of the 487 males that had either died or been culled were in fact culled, it is likely that this was not the true cause of the absence of 4 or 5 gait score birds on 19/4/93. Instead, it indicates that the overall prevalence of 4 and 5 gait score birds (independent of culling) was low. Experience on the pathology of such birds has shown that their lameness is often associated with an infection (synovitis, tenosynovitis, osteomyelitis) of the joint, tendon or bone in the legs. Bearing this in mind, the Head of Technical Services of the company was asked how the low prevalence of severe lameness was achieved. The answer was that infection probably occurred at the hatchery, and that inclusion of the appropriate antibiotic in the starter ration reduced the problem considerably. This is a novel appraisal of the cause of severe leg weakness and the company should be commended for using a method which helps to overcome this problem.
Another unusual feature at this unit was the high level of lighting. I was informed that it was the standard level of lighting used in the rearing sheds by the company. On measurement it was found to be 75 to 80 lux at broiler head height. The normal lighting level used in the UK broiler industry is probably less than 15 lux, and so the level used by the company was relatively high. The birds did not have access to natural daylight, and instead the lights were on for 24 hours a day.
A potential problem with rearing broilers is poor adjustment of the height of the feeders and drinkers. The object is to raise their height above floor level to minimise the opportunity for the birds to knock into them causing spillage, which in the case of water leads to deterioration of the quality of the litter. Wet litter can lead to problems with atmospheric ammonia, high humidity and hock burn. There is a fine balance between raising the drinkers by too much, such that the smaller birds cannot get any water, and minimising spillage. This problem had been overcome at this unit by using drinkers which had the nipples set at more than one height. This practice is to be commended, and unfortunately it is not widely practiced in the United Kingdom broiler industry.
The ventilation system used in the shed was ridge extraction with side inlets. Thermostatically controlled supplementary gas heating was available if the temperature fell below present limits, and the gas heaters were positioned throughout the length of the shed and could be used during the entire growing period (not just at brooding). The ventilation itself was also thermostatically controlled. The temperature measured at bird height was 19·C. The relative humidity, according to the company's measurement, was 74%, and in my opinion the atmosphere was of good quality in comparison with many other sheds I have been In.
iii) Pig breeding and fattening units
McKey Food Service Ltd buys in pork belly, shoulder and oyster meat from a single company for the manufacture of sausage patties (for burgers), McRibs (reformed comminuted boneless meat) and smoked bacon. I was informed by the Group Purchasing Manager of McKey Food Service Ltd that this company's specification requires that pale, soft, exudative and dark, firm dry meats must not be supplied. These are poor meat quality conditions that can be caused by stress in the animals and poor preslaughter handling.
The company which supplied McKey Food Service Ltd with pigmeat slaughters pigs at a rate of 220 to 240 per hour and between 9000 and 10000 per week. Between 35 and 40% are fattened on the company's farms, and 60% of that proportion were born on the company's breeding units. The remainder of the supply comes from privately owned farms. The company has nine outdoors breeding units with about 500 sows on each unit. 60% of the company's breeding units are outdoors. Some of the privately owned breeding units are also outdoors. I was told that none of the company's own breeding units use tethers, slats or stalls. In general, in units which do not use tether or stalls there can be problems with fighting, but I was informed that aggression between sows was controlled by the company by providing straw, keeping the sows in small groups, and in some of the outdoor paddocks by running a boar with the sows.
The company buys all its breeding stock from pig breeding companies. It specifies that the gilts and boars should not have their tails docked and that they are halothane negative (stress resistant). The halothane gene is responsible for a greater prevalence of stress induced deaths and for pale, soft, exudative meat but its presence in the breeding stock helps to impart heavier muscling and hence more lean in the carcasses of the offspring. I was shown one of the outdoor breeding units. The sows were in groups of about 25, fenced in with a battery operated electric fence and provided with ample space to root around in, arc shelters and, during the summer, mud wallows. They were scatter fed and water was available ad libitum from a galvanised trough.
I was informed that aggression between sows was not a problem in this system, nor was thin-sow-syndrome nor ectoparasites. An important condition to watch for was sunburn. White breeds, such as those used by the company, are sensitive to this, and at the time of my visit (20/4/93) the manager had just instructed that mud wallows should be introduced in preparation for the summertime. These allow the sows and boars to acquire a protective sunscreen.
At 48 hours after furrowing the piglets have their teeth clipped and about 25% have their tails docked. Tooth clipping is used to minimise teat and udder damage in the sows and tail docking is only used in certain breeding lines which are prone to tail biting. These procedures are not disallowed by law but it is generally considered that they should only be practiced where they are believed to be necessary procedures. None of the piglets are castrated.
The piglets are kept in the outdoor breeding unit with the sows for 21 days, and then they are weaned. At this time they are transferred to another outdoor unit made of mobile kennels. This unit consists of a shelter plus straw with a solid sided pen, positioned on a gass field. Here, pigs from different litters were mixed, and they are fed ad libitum from a hopper up to 40 kg liveweight when they are transported to a fattening unit. I was shown two fattening units on one farm, which together could hold 1100 pigs. It was a Suffolk unit; a strawed lying area part of which had a low ceiling, with access to a dunging corridor. At this stage the pigs did not have access to outdoors, and they were fed ad libitum with a trough space of 18cm or more per pig. The maximum stocking density in the lying area was estimated as being 0.52 m2 per pig (90 kg). This would fall within the limit set by the Code of Practice for pigs.
iv) Chicken preslaughter handling and slaughter.
There was not an opportunity to inspect the birds being caught at the farm, but some general comments can be made. The system used by the company for transporting the birds is that known as the Anglia Autoflow system. Modules containing plastic drawers are unloaded from a lorry and placed inside or near to the entrance of the shed. A team of catchers pick up the birds and take them to the modules where they are loaded into the drawers. If the birds are handled roughly they can be damaged and if there is sufficient haemorrhaging they can die. These birds will appear as 'dead on arrival' at the processing plant.
In 1990/1992 a survey of causes of trauma in dead on arrival birds was conducted in England. The company in question was included in that survey, and its results are shown as plant F in the enclosed paper (Gregory and Austin, 1999). The most common cause of fatal trauma in the survey was dislocated hips, but for plant F this damage was very low. The overall level of dead on arrival birds at plant F was close to the average for the survey. Head trauma was the principle unusual feature for this plant, and it is suspected that it would be common to other plants that use the Anglia Autoflow system. This system is gaining in popularity and it is thought that it is likely to replace most of the alternative systems in the future.
On the day I visited the plant for the purpose of this report (19/4/93) I asked to see the dead on arrival bin. It contained 44 birds, 6 of which had died from a dislocated hip and one had died from a crushed skull. It is possible that one other bird had died from a crushed neck but this was not certain as it could have had its neck dislocated manually for euthanasia purposes. The prevalence of dislocated hips (14%) was higher than that recorded in the survey, but it must be noted that it was based on fewer birds.
When the live birds arrive at the processing plant they are hung upside down on an overhead shackle which conveys them to a waterbath stunner. On 19/4/93 the company was operating two such killing lines, one for male and the other for female birds. Two weeks previously there had been only one killing line which operated at twice the speed and carried both male and female birds. On 19/4/93 measurements were made on only one of the lines - usually the male line.
The line speed on 19/4/93 was 87 birds per minute. The lighting at the hanging-on position was subdued; a green light was used to allow the shackling staff to see. A normal reaction of the birds to being taken from transport crates and being suspended on the shackles is to flap their wings (Gregory and Bell, 1987). Shackling was closely observed for 26 birds. Only one of them displayed any wing flapping and it lasted for about half a second. One hundred shackled birds were palpated for broken wing bones, and none were found. It was concluded that the disturbance of hanging the birds on the line was as low as can be hoped for. Between the hanging-on point and the waterbath stunner there was a continuous breast comforter; a device designed to quieten the birds and prevent them from flapping their wings. Over a 3 minute recording period, no birds flapped their wings between these points in the line. At other processing plants resurgences of flapping during this period are said to be associated with disturbance of birds because of unevenness in the line, temporary loss of visual contact between adjacent birds when they go round a corner, and sudden exposure to bright lights (e.g. sunshine). These were not a cause for concern at this plant.
The birds reached the stunner at 1 min 16 seconds after hanging-on. At this point they should be drawn into the water which is electrically live and immediately stunned. In some situations birds receive an electric shock before they are stunned. This causes them to recoil before being conveyed into the water and before being stunned. This situation can be common in poultry processing plants, and it was observed during a previous visit to this particular plant (Gregory, 18/2/93 report, appended). The interval between the initial electric shock and the stun can be very brief (about 0.5 seconds). Owing to the difficult access to the entrance of the waterbath stunners it was difficult to observe the birds closely and estimate the extent of this problem. However, it was thought to have occurred in 13.5% of 200 birds examined. One percent of the birds were thought to have missed the water of the waterbath stunner, and hence were not stunned. These birds also missed the automatic cutter because their necks were not extended, and instead had their heads cut off by the manual back up neck cutter. This is normal practice for poultry lines, although it is more usual to just cut one side of the neck instead of taking the whole head off.
On 19/4/93, between the stunner and the neck cutter 0.7% of the birds showed a reflex response to manually pulling their heads downwards. In this situation. if a bird is conscious it will show reflex withdrawal of the head. The birds that made up the 0.7% mentioned above had a dry head, and so it had failed to make contact with the water of the waterbath stunner. This prevalence is probable within the normal range for UK processing plants.
A Simmons Engineering stunner delivering a 500 Hz pulsed direct current was being used. This frequency is not commonly used in the UK, and it rarely causes a cardiac arrest at stunning. It is preferred by the company because it produces better carcass quality, and this view is substantiated by trials performed by the company. In the Code of Practice (paragraph 37) it is intimated that it is desirable to induce a cardiac arrest at stunning. If this is not achieved, it suggests that instead it is important to sever both carotid arteries in the neck in order to ensure a prompt death without resumption of consciousness. This is because the carotid arteries supply the brain with blood. If, on the other hand, the vessels at the back of the neck are severed blood can be continuously supplied to the brain during the early part of the bleeding period.
The neck cutters used at the plant are made by Stork and are designed to cut the back of the neck. On examining the wound' the neck cutter was found to sever one or both vertebral arteries in all birds, the spinal cord in 83% of the birds, one of the carotid arteries in 33% of the birds, and an external carotid artery in those birds that did not have the main (common carotid artery cut.
To summarise the situation so far, the birds were not receiving a cardiac arrest at stunning and they were not receiving a ventral neck cut. One hundred birds were examined for signs of rhythmic breathing at 37 seconds after neck cutting, as a prelude to determining whether any were regaining consciousness. There were no birds showing rhythmic breathing. However, this test was flawed by the fact that 83% of the birds had their spinal cords severed. This would prevent breathing, and it could mask the presence of resumption of consciousness (which might occur for a short period). To test whether this was likely, the depth of the cut produced by the neck cutter was reduced so that fewer (about 20%) of the birds had the spinal cord cut, and the presence of rhythmic breathing during bleeding was assessed. Four out of 100 birds were found to be breathing rhythmically at 37 seconds post neck cutting however on grasping their heads they showed no recoil even though the corneal reflex was found to be present. It is concluded that although the system employed for stunning and killing the birds was not ideal from the welfare point of view, it could not be faulted in terms of the recovery of consciousness during the bleeding period. Prestun shocks and birds missing the stunner were a problem, as they can be in other plants.
It has been recommended that birds should be dead at scalding. The only acceptable alternative would be that they should be irreversibly unconscious. At the plant 100 birds were assessed for the presence of spontaneous gagging and 100 birds were assessed for the corneal reflex at the entrance to the scalder. One bird showed gagging and one bird showed a corneal reflex. It was concluded that 1% of the birds have residual brainstem activity at scalding. Neither of the birds showed any conscious activity.
v) Pig preslaughter handling and slaughter
The finished pigs were transported to the plant from the fattening unit either in the abattoir company's own lorries or in contractor vehicles. I was told that the company's vehicles had hydraulically lifting decks, and that the staff that loaded and unloaded the pigs were not allowed by the company to use electric goads. I was also told that the stockmen were trained in how to handle pigs when they joined the company, and that the mortality during transport was 0.02%. The most recent national estimate for mortality during transport in pigs is 0.07%. On the day of my visit (20/4/93) there were on average 84 pigs delivered per lorry.
I observed one pig transporter (contractor) being unloaded at the abattoir. The slope of the main tailboard to the unloading bay was less than 20·, and it was almost horizontal. The man who drove the pigs off the lorry did not use a goad or any device to hit the pigs with. Instead he moved into the pigs directing them out by hand towards the tailboard, and then they walked into the lairage in an orderly manner. When the topdeck was unloaded the pigs slid down the ramp. However, none of the pigs fell over during this or any other procedure during the unloading of the vehicle.
I was told that pigs were not kept in the lairage overnight. On account of this no feeding was necessary in the lairage. Each lairage pen had two nipple drinkers supplying water ad libitum.
I was also told that a pram was kept by the unloading bay in case there was a casualty on a lorry. The purpose of the pram would be to convey any pig which is unable to walk to the stunning pen where it would be despatched. Alternatively, if a pig had to be shot on the lorry the carcass would be conveyed on the pram to the bleeding area.
The lairage at the plant had a solid floor instead of slats and there were 24 lairage pens. At the time of the visit the stocking density in the pens varied between 0.48 and 0.84 m2 per pig (estimated liveweight 90 to 100 kg). There were sprinklers operating in the lairage pens. The lairageman drove the pigs, without a goad, in groups of 15 to 20 pigs from the lairage pens to the first holding pen. Here the pigs were hosed down with water and then five pigs were drafted into the second holding pen. Here the pigs were hosed down with water and then live pigs were drafted into the second holding pen. When the third holding pen was empty another lairageman moved the pigs into it, without using a goad. (I was told that the company stopped using electric goads in 1986). Between each holding pen there was a sliding gate. The second lairageman also drafted pigs individually from the third holding pen into the stunning pen where two men (slaughterman and shackler) stood in the middle of the pen facing the hoist. The pig usually moved around the perimeter of the stunning pen until it came to the hoist where the slaughterman stunned it with a set of electrical tongs (scissor type). Up to this point the handling of the pigs in my opinion was very good. In fact I would recommend it as a model example for other abattoirs to emulate. A common procedure with other abattoirs is to move groups of pigs into the stunning pen, using goads or hose pipe truncheons to drive them onwards. Within the stunning pen the pigs move about in a disorderly manner and this makes it difficult for the slaughterman to pick off a pig which is near the hoist which he can stun. In that situation it is not uncommon for pigs to experience electric shocks before they are stunned.
At the company's abattoir pigs were being killed at 220 to 240 per hour. The tongs of the stunner were applied to the neck and head for 11 seconds during which time the shackler shackled a hindleg and attached the other end of the shackle to the hoist. The hoist lifted the pig to the sticking area where the pig was stuck at (on average) 18 seconds after the start of stunning using a conventional chest stick. After sticking the pig passed down the bleeding line. Since the bleeding line in this plant was short, the carcasses were stacked for a period in groups of about five half way down the bleeding line to allow them to drain in the appropriate area.
There are six comments I would make about the stunning and bleeding operations which need consideration:
In summary, there were some shortcomings in the stunning and bleeding procedures, but with the exception of the severity of the carcass kicking they would not be unusual for British abattoirs. Pig stunning and sticking are difficult jobs to perform well, and there is almost always something which can be criticised in the way they are done. In spite of this, it is very important to note that at no stage following stunning were there any symptoms in the pigs' physical behaviour which would indicate that they were conscious. Forty pigs were examined closely for signs of rhythmic breathing following stunning and during bleeding. None were observed.
vi) Cattle preslaughter handling and slaughter
Two abattoirs which supplied McKey Food Service Ltd with beef for McDonald's Restaurant Ltd trade were visited. on 21/4/93. One of the plants (A) slaughtered 600 to 800 cattle a day and the other (B) up to 200 a day.
Plant A was situated on the slope of a hill, and the animals had to ascend an incline plus a step when proceeding from the lairage to the stunning pen. The step might be expected to be an encumbrance, but nevertheless the movement of cows was orderly without imposing undue stress. None of the animals slipped or fell over. There were two or three lairagemen and one man (equipped with a "Hot Shot" button operated battery powered goad) working the cattle through the holding pens and raceway towards the stunning pen. At the stunning pen the slaughterman was equipped with an electric goad ("Hot Shot"), a Cowpuncher with 3 grain cartridges and a back-up gun (Bulldozer with 3 grain cartridges). The goad was used to encourage an animal to enter the stunning pen.
The outcome of the stunning procedure was closely examined in ten cows. None of the animals showed any breathing after the stun and before sticking and in all these cases only one shot was required, the body was in a tonic spasm and the eyeball was pointing forwards instead of being rotated in its socket: all of which are indicators of a perfect stun from the welfare standpoint. At about 55 seconds after stunning the cattle were bled using a conventional chest stick. Overall, the systems for moving the cows from lairage to stunning pen and for shooting them in that pen were effective and conducted in a manner which would commonly be considered as acceptable for present abattoir practice.
The skinned skulls from ten cows were examined for the accuracy of shooting at plant A. According to research, when a shot deviates by more than 2cm from the "ideal" position on the frontal plane of the skull, there is an association with a higher prevalence of imperfect stunning. This association was determined across abattoirs, and not within animals. The
"ideal" position is the joint on the midline which is 7 cm caudal to a line drawn between the rear margin of the eyes. Of the 10 skulls examined, 5 shots were more than 2 cm from the ideal position, and the remainder were within this distance. It is concluded that the accuracy of shooting was not particularly good, but in spite of this, and probably because a high powered cartridge was being used, the stunning was observed to be effective. I was informed that the abattoir stopped using pithing 2 or 3 months prior to my visit.
At plant B, one lairageman and one race operator drove the cows from the lairage to the stunning pen. In general this proceeded in a smooth manner and the cows did not appear to be unduly stressed. The lighting level in the raceway at cow head height was 60 to 70 lux. The lairageman was equipped with a "Hot Shot" electric goad and the race operator with a "Picador" battery operated goad. Both instruments were used for driving the cattle.
The slaughterman was equipped with a Cowpuncher and 3 grain cartridges. I could not see any back-up stun at the stunning pen. The outcome of the stunning procedure was examined in 27 cows. In 26 cases the animals collapsed and on tipping them out of the stunning pen their bodies were in a tonic spasm, there was no breathing and the eyeball was facing forwards; all of which were indicators of a perfect stun. In the remaining case, the animal collapsed when it was shot but the slaughterman shot it again whilst it was still in the stunning pen. From where I was standing it was not possible to establish whether the animal had in fact been improperly stunned by the first shot, but, because the slaughterman shot it a second time, it is likely that it was a less than perfect stun. Based on these findings the prevalence of imperfect stunning was 3.7%. In a survey of 27 beef abattoirs conducted in 1987 and involving 1944 animals this value was 6.6%.
After an animal had been shot and ejected from the stunning pen it was shackled, pithed, hoisted and stuck. The interval between stunning and pithing was on average 28 seconds, and between stunning and sticking it was 47 seconds. It is concluded that with the possible exception of one cow, all the cows examined were effectively stunned.
Sixty six skinned skulls were examined for accuracy of shooting using the same criteria as for plant A. Forty seven skulls had bolt penetration within 2cm of the ideal position. In 18 skulls the bolt hole was more than 2 cm away from the ideal position. In one skull there were two bolt holes and both were more than 2 cm away from the ideal position. The overall accuracy of shooting was better than for plant A. and this might have been due to the need for more accurate shooting because the carcasses were pithed, and because the line speed was slower thus affording more time for aiming the shot.
vii) Conclusions with regard to the allegations
From my observations it was my opinion that:
a) The rearing system used for chickens by the McDonald's Restaurant Ltd supplier is no more cruel than that used by its competitors in the United Kingdom. In fact, it could be considered to be better from the welfare point of view because:
Since there were no severely lame birds observed in this study, it was not possible to support the allegation that the severely lame birds suffered from hock burn and ulcerated feet.
The rearing unit appeared to be operating at a high husbandry standard.
b) From the observations made in this study it was not possible to support the allegation that the pigs had no access to fresh air or sunshine and no freedom of movement. Many of the pigs were born and spent the early part of their life outdoors where they were kept firstly in paddocks and later in kennels. The breeding and fattening units appeared to be operating at a high husbandry standard.
c) The method of stunning and slaughter for chickens is subject to legislation and routine inspection, and it is required that the birds are rendered instantaneously insensible to pain until death supervenes. The only instances where this was at fault was in those birds that experienced prestun shocks and in those birds which missed the water of the waterbath stunner. The processing plant which supplied McDonald's Restaurant Ltd is not alone in having these faults. However, it was not possible to support the allegation that one third of the birds were sentient when they went to the knife.
d) The pigs were stunned with head-only tongs, not with a head-to-body stunner. The former is the usual stunning method in United Kingdom pig abattoirs. High voltage stunning and head-to-body stunning result in carcass damage which makes these methods unpopular within the pig abattoir industry.
The preslaughter handling was carried out in a very efficient and humane manner. From my critical observations it was not possible to support the allegation that the pigs panicked and became frantic.
e) In the cattle abattoirs the preslaughter handling was conducted in an orderly manner. It was not possible to find any evidence which supported the allegation that the cows
panicked and became frantic.
Captive bolt stunning was carried out efficiently,, and with the possible exception of one cow, humanely.
Addendum to the Report by NG Gregory
In 1987 a survey was conducted on the efficiency of stunning methods in twenty seven beef abattoirs in England and Wales. Seven of these abattoirs supply McKey Food Service Limited with beef, and in this addendum their results are compared with those of the remaining plants.
A higher proportion of the McKey Food Service Limited suppliers used the Cow Puncher gun than for the other abattoirs, and they experienced a lower prevalence of imperfect stunning. The time taken to load the stunning pen and aim the shot was lower in the McKey Food Service Limited suppliers, and on average the accuracy of shooting was better.
No 4 9
Yes 3 11
Cow Puncher 5 8
Cash Special 1 5
Cox Mark IV 1 0
Cox Universal 0 4
Bulldozer 0 1
Cash X 0 1
Super Cash 0 1
Shooting Quotient (a measure of the distance of the shot from the ideal shooting position)
x 1.87 2.00
s.e. 0.06 0.02
Time in stunning pen before shooting (seconds)
x 28 40
s.e. 1 2
Proportion of animals showing symptoms which indicated a less than perfect stun
% 4.5 8.9
July 12, 1994|
Appeared in court|
exhibits: Not applicable/ available
transcripts of court appearances: