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Abstract

Objective—To determine the percentages of cattle that are stunned correctly and that vocalize (moo or bellow) when a major meat-buying customer conducts slaughter plant audits.

Design—Survey of existing practices.

Sample Population—22 federally inspected slaughter plants.

Procedure—The 3 variables evaluated in each slaughter plant were stunning efficacy, insensibility on the bleed rail, and vocalization.

Results—Of the 22 slaughter plants, 17 (77%) rendered ≥ 95% of the cattle insensible with a single shot from a captive bolt stunner. Twenty slaughter plants (91%) rendered 100% of the cattle completely insensible before hanging them on the bleed rail. Eighteen of 21 (86%) slaughter plants achieved cattle vocalization scores of ≤ 3%. The mean vocalization score for all slaughter plants was 3.08%. Vocalization ranged from 0.66 to 17%.

Conclusions—Results of this study indicate that audits of slaughter plants by major meat-buying customers may motivate the meat industry to improve handling and stunning practices. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2000;216:848–851)

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
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Abstract

Objective—To determine causes and solutions for return-to-sensibility problems after electrical stunning in pigs.

Design—Case studies.

Sample Population—6 federally inspected pork slaughter plants.

Procedure—100 to 200 pigs were scored in each plant for stunner positioning, squealing when stunner was applied, and signs of insensibility. All pigs were held in a V-shaped restrainer conveyor and stunned with a manually applied head-to-body electrical stunner.

Results—Percentage of pigs that had blinking after stunning ranged from 0.5 to 7. None of the pigs had a righting reflex or kicked in response to stimuli. All signs of possible return to sensibility disappeared before bleeding pigs reached the scalding tub. Spontaneous eye blinking was eliminated by improving bleeding practices to increase blood flow, ergonomically redesigning the stunner operator's work station to make correct placement of the stunner easier, redesigning the head electrode to facilitate correct placement, reducing line speed from 1,200 to 1,080 head/h, correcting problems with poor initial contact of the stunner, and increasing amperage of a stunner that was set too low for sows. In 1 plant, a fatigued operator was the cause of stunner placement mistakes that resulted in signs of returning to sensibility.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Problems with electrical stunning can be easily corrected, but effective stunning requires monitoring of correct electrode placement, amperage, and bleeding procedures. Observation of spontaneous natural eye blinking without touching the eye is recommended for use under field conditions, because it is less prone to misinterpretation than are other methods. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2001;219:608–611)

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
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Abstract

Objective—To evaluate efficacy of penetrating captive bolt stunning of cattle in commercial beef slaughter plants and identify potential causes of a return to sensibility among stunned cattle.

Design—Observational study.

Sample Population—21 federally inspected commercial beef slaughter plants.

Procedure—In each plant, stunning of at least 100 cattle (19 large plants) or a minimum of 1 hour of production (2 small plants) was observed, and cattle were evaluated for signs of returning to sensibility on the bleed rail. Cattle with a limp, flaccid head, a lack of spontaneous blinking, and an absence of a righting reflex were considered insensible.

Results—In 17 of the 21 (81%) plants, all cattle were rendered insensible before they were hoisted onto the bleed rail. The remaining 4 plants had cattle that had signs of returning to sensibility; these cattle were restunned prior to skinning or leg removal. Of 1,826 fed steers and heifers, 3 (0.16%) had signs of returning to sensibility, whereas 8 of 692 (1.2%) bulls and cows did. Return-to-sensibility problems were attributed to storage of stunner cartridges in damp locations, poor maintenance of firing pins, inexperience of the stunner operator (ie, shooting cattle too high on the forehead), misfiring of the stunner because of a dirty trigger, and stunning of cattle with thick, heavy skulls.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggest that efficiency of captive bolt stunning of cattle in commercial slaughter plants can be safely and objectively assessed. Care should be taken to maintain stunners correctly, particularly when stunning bulls and cows with heavy skulls. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2002;221:1258–1261)

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
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Objective

To develop objective methods for monitoring animal welfare at slaughter plants to ensure compliance with the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.

Design

Survey of existing procedures.

Sample Population

24 federally inspected slaughter plants.

Procedure

6 variables evaluated at each plant were stunning efficacy, insensibility of animals hanging on the bleeding rail, vocalization, electric prod use, number of animals slipping, and number of animals falling.

Results

Of 11 beef plants, only 4 were able to render 95% of cattle insensible with a single shot from a captive-bolt stunner. Personnel at 7 of 11 plants placed the stunning wand correctly on 99% or more of pigs and sheep. At 4 beef plants, percentage of cattle prodded with an electric prod ranged from 5% at a plant at which handlers only prodded cattle that refused to move to 90% at another plant. Use of electric prods at 6 pork plants scored for prod use ranged from 15 to almost 100% of pigs. Percentage of cattle that vocalized during stunning and handling ranged from 1.1 % at a plant at which electric prods were only used on cattle that refused to move to 32% at another plant at which electric prods were used on 90% of cattle and a restraint device was inappropriately used to apply excessive pressure.

Clinical Implications

To obtain the most accurate assessment of animal welfare at slaughter plants, it is important to score all of the aforementioned variables. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 1998;212:36–39)

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
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Summary

Factors that impede animal movement in slaughter plants and that are likely to cause excitement, stress, or bruises are major mistakes in the design of chutes and stockyard pens; lack of training or poor supervision of employees; distractions that impede animal movement, such as sparkling reflections on a wet floor, air hissing, high-pitched noise, or air drafts blowing down the chute toward approaching animals; poor maintenance of facilities, such as worn out or slick floors that cause animals to fall; and animals from genetic lines that have an excitable temperament. Veterinarians need to be aware of these factors because such factors can cause animals to balk and become excited, which may result in excessive prodding. When a handling system is being evaluated, one must be careful to discriminate between a major design mistake and small distractions that can be easily corrected, but that can ruin the performance of the best systems. A survey of 29 Canadian slaughter plants revealed that 21 % (6 plants) had slick floors that would cause animals to slip and fall, and 27% (8 plants) had high-pitched motor noise or hissing air that caused animals to balk. Air drafts blowing down the chutes, which will often impede animal movement, were a problem in 10% (3) of the plants. Simple modifications of lighting and elimination of air drafts and hissing will often greatly improve animal movement. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 1996;209:757–759)

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

Objective

To assess the prevalence of severe welfare problems in horses that arrive at slaughter plants and to identify horses that were unfit for travel.

Design

Pevalence survey.

Animals

1,008 horses.

Procedure

Horses arriving at 2 slaughter plants were observed. The following were rated severe welfare problems in horses: body condition scores of 1 or 2 (emaciated) of 9; recumbency (down) or the inability to walk; fractured limbs or other foot or limb problems that extremely impaired mobility; severe wounds, such as deep cuts, extensive lacerations, abrasions on the head or back, eye injuries, neglected purulent lesions, and numerous bite and kick marks over extensive areas of the body, and dead on arrival. Bruises on carcasses were tabulated to further assess injuries. Horses that had been loaded with a fractured limb, arrived nonambulatory, had severe lameness that interfered with mobility, were weak and emaciated, or were dead on arrival or died shortly after arrival were considered unfit for travel.

Results

Ninety-two percent (930/1,008) of the horses arrived in good condition, and 7.7% (78) had a condition that was rated a serious welfare problem. Thirty horses (3%) had a body condition score of 1 or 2, 12 (1.0%) had foot and limb problems (other than fractures), 4 (0.4%) had fractured limbs. 18 (2.0%) had deep cuts, lacerations, or injuries from bites. 8 (0.8%) were nonambulatory or dead on arrival, 2 (0.2%) had deformities, 3 (0.3%) had extensive purulent lesions, and 1 (0.1%) had a behavior problem. Characteristic patterns of 51% of carcass bruises indicated that they were caused by bites or kicks. Fighting was the major cause of injuries that occurred during transport and marketing. Fifteen (1.5%) horses were unfit for travel. Abuse or neglect by owners was the cause of 77% of the severe welfare problems observed.

Clinical Implications

To decrease the number of injuries that result from fighting when transporting horses to slaughter plants, aggressive mares and geldings that continually attack other horses must be segregated. (J Am Med Assoc 1999;214:1531-1533)

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

Abstract

OBJECTIVE To explore the extent to which veterinary colleges and schools accredited by the AVMA Council on Education (COE) have incorporated specific courses related to animal welfare, behavior, and ethics.

DESIGN Survey and curriculum review.

SAMPLE

All 49 AVMA COE-accredited veterinary colleges and schools (institutions).

PROCEDURES The study consisted of 2 parts. In part 1, a survey regarding animal welfare, behavior, and ethics was emailed to the associate dean of academic affairs at all 49 AVMA COE-accredited institutions. In part 2, the curricula for the 30 AVMA COE-accredited institutions in the United States were reviewed for courses on animal behavior, ethics, and welfare.

RESULTS Seventeen of 49 (35%) institutions responded to the survey of part 1, of which 10 offered a formal animal welfare course, 9 offered a formal animal behavior course, 8 offered a formal animal ethics course, and 5 offered a combined animal welfare, behavior, and ethics course. The frequency with which courses on animal welfare, behavior, and ethics were offered differed between international and US institutions. Review of the curricula for the 30 AVMA COE-accredited US institutions revealed that 6 offered a formal course on animal welfare, 22 offered a formal course on animal behavior, and 18 offered a formal course on animal ethics.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE Results suggested that AVMA COE-accredited institutions need to provide more formal education on animal welfare, behavior, and ethics so veterinarians can be advocates for animals and assist with behavioral challenges.

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association