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Conference paper2018Peer reviewed

On-farm slaughter - ethical implications and prospects

Hultgren, J.; Berg, C.; Karlsson, A. H.; Schiffer, K. J.; Algers, B.


The slaughter of farm animals to produce meat for human consumption involves a number of ethical dimensions. The animals are subjected to considerable welfare risks; pre-slaughter handling can be one of the most stressful events in the life of an animal. Stress at slaughter may lead to deteriorated meat quality through increased breakdown of glycogen in the muscles, resulting in abnormally lower or higher pH values which makes the fresh meat pale, soft and exudative or dark, firm and dry, respectively. In most developed countries farm animal production is undergoing structural changes resulting in fewer but larger herds with less time for management of individual animals, making them less tolerant to handling at the time of slaughter. Despite comprehensive legal restrictions and official control of commercial abattoirs, farm animal welfare outcomes at slaughter vary considerably and are in some cases unacceptably poor. The high line speed in large-scale slaughter results in demanding working conditions, making it difficult for stockpersons to deal with hassle and balking. A considerable proportion of the animals transported to slaughter spend one night at the abattoir before being slaughtered, which may increase stress levels if lairage conditions are poor. On-farm slaughter may be conducted at a stationary plant at the farm, in a mobile unit temporarily placed at or near the farm, or by stunning and bleeding on farm followed by carcass transport to a nearby plant for further processing. On-farm slaughter may have a potential to reduce pre-slaughter animal stress by shorter or eliminated transports, minimised exposure to unfamiliar environments, animals and persons, less time in lairage and a reduced slaughter line speed, which would be in line with the increased awareness of ethical issues related to the slaughter of animals. On the other hand, on-farm slaughter involves challenges regarding food and occupational safety, waste management and public health. Requirements regarding adequate bleeding, freedom from carcass contamination, veterinary inspections and carcass refrigeration must be met. The working conditions for farm and slaughterhouse personnel must be acceptable, thus avoiding unacceptable physical and psycho social risks.


abattoir; animal welfare; gunshot method; mobile slaughter; pre-slaughter stress

Published in

Title: Professionals in food chains
ISBN: 978-90-8686-321-1, eISBN: 978-90-8686-869-8
Publisher: Wageningen Academic Publishers


14th Congress of the European-Society-for-Agricultural-and-Food-Ethics - Professionals in Food Chains: Ethics, Roles and Responsibilities, JUN 13-16, 2018, Vienna, AUSTRIA