Scientific Opinion on electrical requirements for poultry waterbath stunning equipment

Tabs

Article
Panel on Animal Health and Welfare
EFSA Journal
EFSA Journal 2014;12(7):3745 [18 pp.].
doi
10.2903/j.efsa.2014.3745
Panel members at the time of adoption
Edith Authie, Charlotte Berg, Anette Bøtner, Howard Browman, Ilaria Capua, Aline De Koeijer, Klaus Depner, Mariano Domingo, Sandra Edwards, Christine Fourichon, Frank Koenen, Simon More, Mohan Raj, Liisa Sihvonen, Hans Spoolder, Jan Arend Stegeman, Hans-Hermann Thulke, Ivar Vågsholm, Antonio Velarde, Preben Willeberg and Stéphan Zientara.
Acknowledgements

Edith Authie, Charlotte Berg, Anette Bøtner, Howard Browman, Ilaria Capua, Aline De Koeijer, Klaus Depner, Mariano Domingo, Sandra Edwards, Christine Fourichon, Frank Koenen, Simon More, Mohan Raj, Liisa Sihvonen, Hans Spoolder, Jan Arend Stegeman, Hans-Hermann Thulke, Ivar Vågsholm, Antonio Velarde, Preben Willeberg and Stéphan Zientara.

Type
Opinion of the Scientific Committee/Scientific Panel
On request from
European Commission
Question Number
EFSA-Q-2014-00089
Adopted
25 June 2014
Published
3 July 2014
Affiliation
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Parma, Italy
Note
Download Article (280.67 KB)
Abstract

The European Commission (EC) requested that the EFSA Panel on Animal Health and Welfare (AHAW Panel) delivers a scientific opinion on a study that proposes parameters for poultry electrical waterbath stunning different to those laid down in Council Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing. The submitted study reports upon the use (mean + SD) of a current of 104.00 ± 3.88 mA, a voltage of 125.86 ± 3.28 V and a frequency of 589.78 ± 0.63 Hz using a square wave in alternating current (AC) with a 50 % duty cycle. These conditions were applied for 15 seconds to chickens under laboratory and slaughterhouse conditions. The submitted study was peer-reviewed by the AHAW Panel in the manner detailed in its ‘Guidance on the assessment criteria for studies evaluating the effectiveness of stunning intervention regarding animal protection at the time of killing’. The methodology and the data reported do not provide conclusive evidence that the combination of the proposed electrical frequency and current induced unconsciousness without exposing the chickens to avoidable pain and suffering. Further, some chickens did not remain unconscious for a sufficient time to prevent avoidable pain and suffering during slaughter. Because the information provided in the study was incomplete and insufficient, it did not pass the eligibility phase of the assessment. In the context of Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes, and current scientific evidence, a frequency of 600 Hz with a current of 104 mA does not result in efficient stunning of poultry. Therefore, additional research into these stunning parameters is not recommended.

Summary

Following a request from the European Commission, the EFSA Panel on Animal Health and Welfare (AHAW) was asked to deliver a scientific opinion on electrical requirements for waterbath stunning equipment. The AHAW Panel addressed the terms of reference (ToRs) as provided by the European Commission, based upon information received from a third country. The Commission requested the EFSA to review the scientific publication provided and to assess to what extent the electrical parameters proposed for stunning poultry are able to provide a level of animal welfare at least equivalent to that ensured by the currently allowed methods and, in case of favourable reply, under what conditions.

Following review of the provided information and evaluating the stunning procedure applied and its welfare outcome (ToR1) it was concluded that the submitted study does not provide enough scientific information upon which to base an assessment of the scientific approach and parameters suggested. Consequently, a full assessment of the animal welfare implications of the proposed stunning procedure was not undertaken (ToR2) and a revision of the electrical requirements for waterbath stunning equipment laid down in Table 2 of Chapter II of Annex I to Council Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009 is not recommended (ToR3).

Nonetheless, the information provided was sufficient to conclude that the birds were not rendered immediately unconscious by the intervention. Application of a current less than that required to induce immediate unconsciousness causes pain, distress and suffering. The study failed to demonstrate absence of pain and suffering until onset of unconsciousness. The minimum duration of unconsciousness was too short to ensure unconsciousness until death by bleeding.

In multiple birds waterbath stunning situations, such as the one assessed here, the electrical resistance varies widely between birds making it impossible to deliver the same constant and predetermined current to each individual bird. The complexity of such multiple bird electrical waterbath stunning systems used in poultry slaughterhouses is not conducive to maintaining good animal welfare and, therefore, alternatives should be developed/implemented.

Studies such as the one assessed here should consider the internationally accepted basic principle referred to as the 3 Rs (replacement, reduction and refinement, according to Directive 2010/63/EU), which recommend approaches to minimize the use of animals for experimental purposes in line with the European Regulation on protection of animals used for scientific purposes.

Keywords
poultry, waterbath, electric, stunning, parameter, welfare, EEG
Print on demand
Number of Pages
18