Author Topic: Dr James Kirkwood, The Humane Slaughter Association: prestunning a must.  (Read 962 times)

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Dr James Kirkwood, The Humane Slaughter Association: prestunning a must.
« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2012, 08:49:25 AM »
Dr James Kirkwood, The Humane Slaughter Association

Around the world, traditions about our interactions with animals (farmed, pets, wild and others) are being re-evaluated in the light of developing scientific understanding of their biology and needs.

It is now widely believed that other vertebrate animals (and perhaps some invertebrates) have, like us, the capacity to subjectively feel - to be aware of - painful stimuli and that this capacity evolved because of the protective advantages it confers.

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    If animals are slaughtered without stunning they may, before losing consciousness, feel pain and other unpleasant feelings”

Efforts are increasingly being made, therefore, to avoid unnecessarily causing pain or other unpleasant feelings to animals. For example, there have been great advances in veterinary anaesthesia and analgesia that enable the amelioration of pain in animals associated with surgical treatments or due to injury or disease.

Likewise, methods have been researched and developed during the last century to stun food animals - to make them unconscious so as to preclude the possibility of pain or other unpleasant feelings - prior to the cutting of major blood vessels to cause death by blood loss.

The need for this has been further confirmed by the results of recent research in New Zealand which shows that neck cuts in lightly anaesthetised cattle cause pain receptors to send signals resulting in brain activity that in a conscious animal would be perceived as pain, and that this can be prevented by stunning.

If animals are slaughtered without stunning they may, before losing consciousness, feel pain and other unpleasant feelings associated with the cutting of neck tissues to sever the major blood vessels.

A review by Karen von Holleben and others (2010) of studies relevant to assessment of time to loss of consciousness following a ventral neck cut concluded "most of the cattle seem to lose consciousness between five and 90 seconds after the cut", and "sheep seem to lose consciousness within two to 20 seconds after ventral neck cut". Time to loss of consciousness had been found to average 12-15 seconds in a recent study in poultry.

As stated in this review: "In summary, part of the welfare concerns about performing a ventral neck cut on an unstunned animal arises, because following the cut it may take some time to achieve unconsciousness."

Modern stunning methods are a major advance in pursuit of the humane ideal (that also lies behind various ancient traditional slaughter methods) of avoidance or minimising the risk of causing pain or other unpleasant feelings at the time of slaughter.

Dr James Kirkwood (BVSc PhD FBS MRCVS) is a veterinarian and chief executive and scientific director of the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14895534