Animal welfare at slaughter


Protecting animal welfare at slaughter is about minimising the pain, distress or suffering of farmed animals at the time of killing.

Staff at slaughterhouses must put a variety of procedures in place. For example, they must carry out regular checks to ensure that animals do not present any signs of consciousness or sensibility between the end of the stunning process and death. If animals are slaughtered without prior stunning, regular checks are needed to ensure that they do not show any signs of consciousness or sensibility before being released from restraint to undergo dressing or scalding.

The work of EFSA’s scientific experts contributes to better animal welfare at slaughterhouses in different ways. For example, they provide scientific advice on the indicators of consciousness or sensibility in animals or on studies on stunning methods.

EFSA supports national contact points in Member States by organising meetings where they can exchange their experiences and share knowledge about welfare at the time of killing.


EFSA experts have examined issues surrounding the slaughter of pregnant farmed animals in the European Union.


Indicators of consciousness

2013 – EFSA publishes four scientific opinions on the welfare of cattle, pigs, sheep, goats and poultry during the slaughter process. These opinions identify indicators of consciousness or sensibility in animals at slaughter.

Examples of indicators are breathing or blinking, but indicators vary depending on the animal species and the stage of the slaughtering process.

Representative sampling of animals

2013 – Experts also gave indications on how to calculate the number of animals to be checked during monitoring.

Evaluation of studies on stunning

2013 – Experts of the AHAW Panel defined the criteria against which they would assess studies evaluating the efficacy of stunning methods (used at slaughter) regarding animal protection. These include reporting quality criteria, eligibility criteria and methodological quality criteria.

EU framework

EU legislation on the killing of animals aims to minimise the pain and suffering of animals through the use of properly applied stunning methods, based on scientific knowledge and practical experience. It applies to farmed animals.