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Archived - Chapter 12: Food Animal Humane Handling and Slaughter – Animal Welfare Requirements

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Under the authority of the Meat Inspection Regulations, all operators of federally registered slaughter establishments must comply with the Animal Welfare requirements, including those that relate to receiving, ante-mortem examination procedures, and all stages of handling, stunning and bleeding of live food animals. The operator of the federally registered slaughter establishment is responsible to have written animal welfare control programs that are fully implemented as outlined in Meat Hygiene Manual of Procedures (MOP).

The operator is also responsible to include in the animal welfare control plans any activities conducted in the federally registered establishment that are enforceable under the Health of Animals Regulations, Part XII, Transportation of Animals, such as the unloading of animals from conveyances, which includes animals that are still in cages or crates but within the establishment.

Additional information is available at: Chapter 12 – Guidance on animal welfare topics in the current Meat MOP

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Part A: All Species

12.0 Authority

The Meat Inspection Act (MIA) and Regulations, the Meat Hygiene Manual of Procedures and Annexes apply to animals slaughtered in federally registered establishments. While the Meat Inspection Regulations (MIR) are the legislative authority for the Meat Hygiene Manual of Procedures (MOP), it is recognized that some events occurring during unloading which are under the authority of the Health of Animals Regulations (HAR), Part XII, Transportation of Animals, will be referenced here when applicable.

Meat Inspection ActR.S.C., 1985, c. 25 (1st Supp.). Section 3

Meat Inspection Regulations, SOR/90-288, Sections 30, 30.1, 57.1, 57.2, 61-80 MIR

Statement of Purpose

All Operators of federally registered slaughter establishments must develop, implement and maintain all control programs set out in the Meat Hygiene Manual of Procedures (MOP) in order to ensure compliance with the MIA and the MIR. This Chapter sets out the elements that are required for the Humane Handling and Slaughter of Food Animals Control Program that all Operators of federally registered slaughter establishments must develop, implement, maintain and carry out in accordance with the MOP.

In developing the written control program for humane handling and slaughter of food animals, Operators must be able to demonstrate a proactive and preventive approach to control the animal welfare of food animals.

12.1 Abbreviations and Definitions Used in this Chapter

Alternating current (AC)
Flow of current that varies cyclically in direction and Magnitude (Courant alternatif - CA)
Device for measuring current flow (Amps) (Ampèremètre)
Amperage (Amp)
The unit used to measure the flow of current (Ampère)
Animal behaviour
Behaviour typical for the species that would indicate stress due to pain, heat or chilling, as well as flight zones, points of balance, field of view, depth perception, colour perception, visual and auditory distractions, probable response to stimuli, prior levels of stress and handling experiences, individual animal variations and variations within species, dominance and mixing of lots, herding/flock instincts, social isolation, startle response, and principles of restraint (Comportement animal)
Animal Welfare Program
A written systemic approach to humane handling which is documented and auditable (MIR 57.2), detailing procedures relating to animal welfare (Programme pour le bien-être des animaux)
Backup stunning equipment
Stunning equipment kept ready and available for use, if primary equipment fails to operate properly (Équipement d'urgence)
Bleeding out
The act of causing blood loss sufficient to result in death (Exsanguination)
Bleed-out time
The time it takes to cause sufficient blood loss for sticking to result in death (Temps de la saignée)
Canadian Food Inspection Agency (ACIA – Agence canadienne d'inspection des aliments)
Clonic seizure
A seizure characterized by a succession of convulsive spasms (Attaque clonique)
Compromised slaughter animal
An animal with reduced capacity to withstand transportation but where transportation with special provisions is not likely to lead to suffering, injury or death. (Animal d'élevage fragilisé)
Controlled atmosphere stunning (CAS)
Using a gas or mixture of gases (Assommage en atmosphère contrôlée)
Crowd pen
A pre-stun pen that can be decreased in size to encourage animals to move in a specific direction (Enclos d'attente pré-assommage)
Compliance Verification System (SVC – Système de vérification de la conformité)
Death (four signs of)
  1. Absence of rhythmic breathing, in combination with:
  2. Loss of anal tone (relaxed)
  3. Visible anoxia (blue tone to mucous membranes and extremities)
  4. heartbeat +/- (varies with the cause of death and is an unreliable sign)

(Mort (quatre signes concluant))

Direct current (DC)
Current that flows constantly in only one direction (Courant continu - CC)
Dead on arrival. (MA - Mort à l'arrivée)
Dressing or dressing procedure
Any cutting or removal of a body part, with the exception of an incision made for bleed out (Processus d'habillage)
The use of electric current to immobilize animals – which should not be confused with electric stunning; immobilized animals are paralyzed but sensible (Électro-immobilisation)
Insensibility achieved by stunning with electricity (Électronarcose)
Establishment operator
The operator or legal entity granted a licence to conduct processing operations in an establishment that slaughters animals for food (Exploitant d'établissement)
Draining the body of blood (see "Sticking" or "Bleeding out") (Saignée à mort)
Fall (vs. slip)
A loss of balance, where a body part above the knee (carpus/hock) such as the shoulder or hip of an animal touches the floor (Chute)
(related to electricity) How many times, in a set time frame a cycle is repeated (Fréquence)
Head only stunning
Stunning with electric current applied across the head. This type of stun is short lived, animals recover rapidly, if not bled out immediately (Assommage tête seulement)
Head-to-heart stunning
Stunning where the current must span the brain and heart simultaneously, or span the brain and immediately thereafter the heart. This type of stun is sometimes called "irreversible electric stun." (Assommage tête cœur)
High frequency
Cycles of electricity, greater than 200 hertz, used to stun animals (Haute fréquence)
Hot wanding
A painful pre-shock received by animals (usually hogs) being stunned with electricity, if current flows before the electrode (wand) has made full contact with the animal. Animals that have been hot wanded will vocalize when the wand is applied (Chocs électriques prématurés)
Humane handling
Method of handling, and slaughter practices that cause a minimum of excitement, pain, injury, or discomfort (Bon traitement)
A state of unawareness in which there is a temporary or permanent disruption of brain function, as a result the animal is unable to respond to normal stimuli, including pain.(used interchangeably with "unconscious") (Insensible)
Irreversible stunning
Stunning that will result in death of the animal in the absence of subsequent bleeding (Assommage irréversible)
Lairage for slaughter
An area of the establishment where animals are housed and held before slaughter, including birds or rabbits in crates or cages and encompasses all pre-slaughter facilities, including the:
  • barn
  • live animal sheds
  • ramps
  • chutes
  • corrals
  • pens and alleys, and
  • holding facilities and feedlots

where animals are unloaded, pending movement or herding to slaughter. Note that crated animals are considered to still be in transport until they are removed from the crates. (Installations d'attente)

A bird or animal that, due to metabolic or systemic compromise, age, or injury, is close to death (Moribond)
Non-ambulatory animal
means an animal of the bovine, caprine, cervid, camelid, equine, ovine, porcine or ratite species that is unable to stand without assistance or to move without being dragged or carried, includes the definition of "downer"
Part of the medulla oblongata, which is an anatomical structure in the brain stem. (Obex)
Ohms Law
Current (I) = Voltage (V) ÷ Resistance (R) (La loi d'Ohm)
Penetrative stunning
Stunning where the implement, such as a captive bolt, penetrates the skull (Assommage pénétrant)
When a projectile (from a firearm) exits the skull on the opposite side from which it entered (Perforation)
Laceration of brain stem tissue by introducing a flexible rod into the cranial cavity following stunning (Jonchage)
Pre-stun pen
A pen near the stunning area used to hold animals prior to slaughter (Enclos de pré-assomage)
Birds that are farmed as domesticated animals and that are used for food (Volaille)
Properties that limit current flow (related to electricity) (Résistance)
The application of any procedure designed to restrict an animal's movement sparing avoidable pain or distress in order to facilitate examination, stunning or euthanasia (Contention)
Restraint conveyor
A moving conveyor that holds an animal in the correct position for accurate stunning (Convoyeur de contention)
Reversible stunning
A stunning process whereby animals eventually have the potential to regain sensibility (for example: head only electrical stunning) (Assommage réversible)
Rhythmic breathing
A regular breathing pattern, indicating (at least partial) brain stem function (Respiration rythmique)
When a projectile (from a firearm) rebounds off a surface (Ricochet)
A state of awareness where there is an ability to respond to stimuli, including pain. Sensibility requires function of the brain stem and some cortical regions of the brain. Used interchangeably with "consciousness" (Conscient)
An instrument used to suspend animals by one or two legs (Étrier)
Suspending birds or red meat animals by a shackle (Accrochage)
To cause the death of an animal with bleeding (Abattage)
Slip (vs. fall)
An animal loses its footing, and the knee (carpus/ hock) of an animal touches the ground (Glissade)
Standard operating procedures (PON - Procédures opérationnelles normalisées)
Spent hens
(also called "end-of–lay" hens) Laying hens that are being culled at the end of their production cycle. Because of their metabolically fragile state, spent hens are at increased risk for injury and death during transportation and while being held in the holding areas prior to slaughter. (Poules de réforme)
The cutting of major blood vessels to allow bleeding out; there are two methods of sticking red meat species (Refer to 12.7.9 Bleeding and Shackling Animals on the Rail.) (Saignée)
To render an animal insensible for the production of food (includes reversible and irreversible methods) (Assommer)
Stun box (knocking box)
A small enclosure in which individual animals are confined for stunning (Boîte d'assommage)
Stunning pen
A pen where animals are stunned, usually in small groups (e.g., lambs, pigs) (Enclos d'assommage)
Stun-to-stick interval
The time between an animal being rendered unconscious by stunning and the time that the major blood vessels are cut (Intervalle entre l'assommage et la saignée)
Subject (suspect) animals
Food animals that are sick or injured or suspected sick, any animal showing deviation from normal appearance or behaviour and those suspected of harbouring residues. These animals must be segregated and clearly identified (Animal sujet)
Tonic seizure
Seizure characterized by rigid muscle tension immediately following an electrical or mechanical stun. (Attaque tonique)
A state of unawareness in which there is a temporary or permanent disruption of brain function, as a result the animal is unable to respond to normal stimuli, including pain. (Used interchangeably with "insensible") (Inconscient)

12.2 Requirements and Development of the Animal Welfare Control Program

12.2.1 Introduction

Regulated parties, which can include producers, catching crews, their supervisors, transporters, dispatchers, supervisors, the owners of transport companies, persons in charge of procurement and scheduling at registered establishments, operators of a slaughter establishment, must ensure that all animals are transported in compliance with applicable legislation.

Food animals awaiting slaughter may fall under the jurisdiction of both the Health of Animals Regulations and the Meat Inspection Regulations. For the purposes of this chapter, the requirements for the Animal Welfare Control Program relate primarily to the requirements under sections 30, 30.1 57.1, 57.2, 61 through 80 of the MIR.

Sections 61 through 80 of the Meat Inspection Regulations outline the requirements for humane handling and slaughter of all food animals, including poultry, in federally registered slaughter establishments. Pursuant to section 61 of the Meat Inspection Regulations, requirements under these sections will apply to the operator and every person engaged in the handling and slaughtering of food animals in the registered establishment. The establishment, as per the definition in the Meat Inspection Act, and for the purpose of animal welfare, is the place in which the animals are slaughtered and includes, pursuant to subsection 28(3)(b) and (c) of the MIR, the area for housing, inspection and holding of animals, as well as facilities to restrain animals for inspection and to handle injured or disabled animals in a humane manner. These areas and facilities may or may not be directly annexed to the slaughter building, but must be part of the registered establishment (This includes all land and buildings owned and/or leased by the registered establishment).

12.2.2 Animal Welfare Control Program Performance Requirements

Operators must develop, implement, and maintain a written Control Program specific for the species, sex, temperament and size and age of all food animals that are handled and slaughtered, including the protocol or policy for compromised and unfit animals. The program and its effectiveness must be reviewed on an annual basis.

The Control Program should include the following written control performance requirements, at a minimum:

Humane Handling and Slaughter Competency Requirements

Establishment operators will ensure that all personnel involved in the handling and slaughter of food animals (including contract staff and temporary workers):

Training material must address:

Elements of the Animal Welfare Control Program must include:
Audit of Objective Welfare Performance Standards

The program must ensure compliance with the objective performance standards in this chapter and with regulatory requirements. The program must be monitored by the company with regular performance-based audits (refer to Annex C). Individuals monitoring and performing audit and verification tasks must be knowledgeable in animal welfare, but not directly involved in performing the task(s) being assessed).

Welfare audits must be carried out on a representative sample of animals. For small plants with low line speeds the operator will establish an audit frequency in consultation with the Veterinarian in Charge (VIC).

The frequency of self-audits in plants will take into account:

Animal Welfare Program Records

The operator shall retain records of monitoring and regular audits, including corrective actions taken to address any deviations identified, follow-up and preventative measures, for three years.

Program modifications must be made as required. The animal welfare written program will be reviewed yearly as part of the Operator's reassessment of the control programs.

Animal Welfare Corrective Action Plans

Slaughter plant operators will develop and implement effective corrective action plans if a non-compliance with the requirements of their written program, regulatory requirements, and/or the requirements of this chapter were to occur. Corrective action plans will include preventative measures where applicable.

An Option for Monitoring or Record Keeping
Use of Video or Other Electronic Monitoring or Recording Equipment

Points to consider:

Part B: Red Meat Species

12.3 Slaughter Establishment Operator's Responsibilities

Communication - Guidelines:

Implement a written Animal Welfare Control Program so that:

Employee Training

Train employees to recognize:


Monitor Animal welfare indicators detected on post mortem (e.g., frostbite, bruising, whip marks [evidence of abuse], fractures, etc.)

Transfer of Care and Control of the Animal

Trained Establishment employee will examine each load and supervise unloading by:

12.4 Red Meat Facility Design and Equipment

Federally registered establishments must meet the requirements for the design, operation, and maintenance of suitable lairage and slaughter facilities pursuant to s. 28 of the MIR.

For the effective implementation of any animal welfare control program and performance requirements, the slaughter facility and premises should be designed with the following elements:

General Information

Design requirements for cattle, bison, horses, hogs, cervids and small ruminants are unique for each species, Plant operators who wish to change or add additional species or categories of animals must submit written plans to the Veterinarian in Charge (VIC). Required facility modifications and written program changes (including training) must be made prior to slaughtering additional species or categories of animals.

Facilities and equipment that can reasonably be expected to meet the requirements must be in place prior to commencing slaughter of a particular species.

Where design deficiencies impact animal welfare in existing plants, the plant operator must implement an action plan to effectively address the problem within a time frame that is set in consultation with the CFIA VIC.

Slaughter establishments must have sufficient capacity in livestock pens (or holding areas) to ensure that animals can be unloaded in a timely fashion and are not exposed to the elements (including lack of ventilation on a stationary transport vehicle).

Livestock holding capacity can normally accommodate half number of animals slaughtered in a normal shift, alternately, the operator must write and implement an effective contingency plan which ensures that animal welfare is protected in the event that slaughter is delayed, slowed or stopped.

When writing contingency plans consider/address:

12.4.1 Unloading Facility Design

Unloading ramps and/or docks must be designed and maintained to minimize slipping, distress, and injury. They must be sturdy, well maintained, drained, have secure footing (i.e. non-slippery, scored, or slats) and have sides that are sufficiently high to prevent escape or injury.

The unloading facilities must permit the inspection of animals.

The unloading facilities must accommodate the types, widths, and heights of all transport vehicles used to transport animals to the plant.

The yard, dock, and/or ramp must enable animals to be unloaded without a gap occurring between the unloading facility and the transport vehicle(s). There should be no gap between the sides and the floor of the ramp that could cause injury or distraction.

12.4.2 Lairage Design

The lairage facility must be designed to enable staff (CFIA) to:

The lairage facility, pens, and gates must be designed, maintained, and operated to:

Facility requirements for ante mortem inspection
"Subject" Pens

The pen(s) used to hold subject animals must be readily accessible and as close as possible to the unloading docks.

The design must allow restraint of food animals for inspection.

Lairage space
Water and Feeding Facilities in Lairage
Ventilation and Air Quality in Lairage

Lighting in lairage:

Written Programs for an Adjacent Feedlot

The plant operator must have a written protocol that addresses the care and handling of food animals upon receiving the animal for holding in a feedlot or similar lairage adjacent to the plant.

Operators are responsible for monitoring the written program to ensure compliance and to amend it if necessary.

12.4.3 Alleys and Chute Design

Alleys and chutes and stun boxes must be designed and maintained to promote the humane treatment of animals by:

Note: width, curvature, lighting, and visual environment are important considerations for chute design.

12.4.4 Pre-Stun Pen(s) Design

Design must facilitate the movement and supply of animals for slaughter.

12.4.5 Stunning Area And Equipment For Stunning, Restraint Performance Requirements as Part of the Control Programs

The stunning area equipment used to stun, restrain, and convey food animals must be designed, maintained, and operated so:

12.4.6 Cleaning and Maintenance of Stunning Equipment

The plant operator must have a written cleaning and maintenance program for all equipment associated with stunning and slaughter. The program must be effective and should meet the minimum requirements of the manufacturer. In situations where the operational conditions do not meet the equipment manufacturer's recommendations, documentation must be developed and maintained to explain the rationale for the variations. The program must be monitored on a regular basis and updated when equipment is replaced, modified or as required.

Cleaning and maintenance of stunning and restraint equipment must be performed as frequently as required to ensure they are maintained in good working condition.

Electrical stunning apparatus should be tested prior to use on animals, using appropriate resistors or dummy loads, as per the manufacturer's directions, ensuring the power is adequate to stun. Do not use live animals to test equipment.

Captive bolt function, including bolt velocity must be checked (using volt velocity checker or similar) as per the manufacturer's instructions.

The operator will maintain records of cleaning, maintenance, and monitoring of stunning equipment for one year.

Backup stunning equipment must be readily available for use and must be similarly cleaned and maintained.

12.5 Care and Handling of Red Meat Animals

The plant operator's Written Animal Welfare Control Program must address:

12.5.1 Live Animal Receiving

The condition of animals received must be assessed by establishment personnel upon their arrival at the plant with criteria and procedures to be defined in the Establishment's Written Animal Welfare Program. In addition, the operator will ensure:

12.5.2 Handling Non-Ambulatory and Compromised Animals

Operators are required to make provision for injured and non-ambulatory animals in their facility.

The written animal welfare program must detail SOPs and training for establishment personnel to address non-ambulatory and compromised animals both: Non-Ambulatory (Downers) in the Establishment

Non-ambulatory (downers) in the establishment:

Non-ambulatory animals that are eligible for slaughter must:

Operators must clearly define the procedure to handle compromised animals, (including stressed hogs), those unwilling or unable to move, and those that "go down" on unloading chutes and in lairage. Stressed Hogs

12.5.3 Handling in Lairage

The plant operator's written animal welfare plan will ensure that:

Animals born during the journey or in lairage must be:

Washing sprays must be monitored to avoid causing unnecessary distress (e.g., avoid using sprays in very cold conditions or in very humid conditions).

Animals in lairage must have continuous access to water in accordance with MIR 65.

Animals held longer than 24 hours must be provided with appropriate feed (MIR 65).

Animals held overnight must be placed into clean pens that are drained or that have sufficient bedding to absorb urine.

The comfort and cleanliness of animals is monitored, as part of the operators' written animal welfare plan

Animals held overnight may require bedding: consider the management conditions animals are accustomed to, the normal group housing resting behaviours, food safety and biosecurity issues)

Animals must not be kept in a registered establishment for more than one week (MIR 43)

Animals must not be removed from a registered establishment without the written permission of the VIC, in accordance with MIR 43.

Live animals must not be left in restrainers (that is, shackles, stun box) during scheduled breaks and extended breakdowns MIR 62 (1).

12.5.4 Handling Aid Electric Prod Use

Use prods:

Electric prods must not be used on: Acceptable Handling Aids Unacceptable Handling Aids and Restraint

12.6 Euthanasia In Lairage

(Refer to 12.5.2 Handling Non-Ambulatory and Compromised Animals)

It is sometimes necessary to euthanize compromised animals or those that are suffering.

Euthanasia with captive bolt

Note: Pithing must not be performed on those animals destined for human consumption.

12.7 Stunning, Bleeding, and Shackling of Red Meat Species

12.7.1 Humane Stunning

Plant operators shall have:

Operators will ensure:

12.7.2 Stunning Equipment Operator Responsibilities

The stunner operator and their supervisors will ensure that:

Corrective action must be taken immediately.

12.7.3 Assessing Sensibility (Consciousness)

Operators of establishments will include written training programs to ensure that stunner operators and their supervisors recognize:

12.7.4 Mechanical Stunning

There are two types of acceptable mechanical stunning equipment:

  1. Captive bolt stunning devices (pneumatic and cartridge fired)
  2. Firearms

12.7.5 Captive Bolt Stunning

The plant operator's written program for the captive bolt stunning devices must ensure that:

12.7.6 Firearm Stunning

Firearm stunning poses an increased OSH risk to plant and CFIA staff.

Firearm stunning is used only when the:

There must be:

The establishment's protocols and written program must include, but are not limited to:

12.7.7 Electrical Stunning

Electrical stunning includes hand-held and automated electrical stunning devices.

The plant operator's written program must ensure that/include:

For more detail, refer to Annex A Species-Specific Stunning Guidelines – Red Meat Species.

12.7.8 Gas And Gas Mixtures (Controlled Atmosphere Stunning)

Increasing capacity poses challenges in plants that stun with gas. The animal welfare plan must address humane stunning and future increases in production. Overcrowding in the stunning chamber and increased line speed reduce the effectiveness of gas stunning operation, as can changing the concentration of the gas mixture or changes in the air flow of the stunning area.

Gas or gas mixtures (controlled atmosphere stunning [CAS]) may be used to stun food animals, if the following design and implementation (Written Animal Welfare Program) requirements are met:


The pre-stun facilities in lairage and post-stun facilities are specifically designed:


The plant operator must have written protocols for:

The program will ensure:

For additional information, please refer to Annex A: Species-Specific Stunning Guidelines – Red Meat Species.

12.7.9 Shackling And Bleeding Animals On The Rail

(For all red meat species and all types of stunning)

The plant operator's written program must ensure that:

Starting the dressing process, or sticking an animal, when the animal shows signs of return to sensibility shall not be tolerated.

12.7.10 Ritual Slaughter

The operator's choice to use ritual slaughter carries with it some increased animal welfare risk. Without stunning, the loss of consciousness is not immediate and is more heavily impacted by individual variations in animal temperament, pre-slaughter handling, skill of slaughtermen and equipment than in situations where stunning is used. Competence, Training, and Written Program (ritual slaughter)

Plant operators must meet the following requirements to process animals by ritual slaughter: Restraint and Cutting for Ritual Slaughter

Each animal must be individually restrained.

Restraint must be appropriate for the species and size of the animal.

The restraint system must have/allow:

Upright Restraint for Ritual Slaughter Ritual Slaughter Process
Guidance: Time to Collapse After Ritual Slaughter
Checking Ritual Neck Cuts
Return to Sensibility on the Bleed Line - Ritual Slaughter

12.8 Unacceptable Acts In Red Meat Slaughter

Acts that are not tolerated include, but are not limited to:

12.9 Priorities During Unscheduled Stoppages in Production

Unforeseen stoppages in production do occur.

A written plan must be developed and maintained for unscheduled stoppages. This plan must consider the types and condition of animals on the premises, as well as the types of holding, feeding, and watering facilities that are available.

The contingency plan should address:

Part C: Poultry and Rabbit Species

12.10 Poultry Welfare

The time in transport for poultry begins when the first animal is loaded into a crate, module or container and ends when the last animal is unloaded from the crate, module or container at the slaughter establishment.

Humane Handling Responsibilities of the Slaughter Establishment Operator:

Communication - Guidelines:

Develop and implement Written Animal Welfare Program to ensure that:


Train employees to know:


Transfer of care and control:

12.11 Facility Design / Equipment and Animal Welfare

For the effective implementation of any animal welfare control plan and performance requirements, the slaughter facility and premises should be designed with the following elements as guidelines:

12.11.1 Lairage Design

Lairage includes: live storage shed, live receiving, yard, and place(s) where trucks are parked, pending unloading.

Lairage facilities must be designed, constructed, maintained and operated to:

The lairage facilities must have:

Facility Requirements for Ante mortem Inspection

12.11.2 Equipment for Poultry Lairage, Handling, Stunning and Slaughter Performance Requirements as Part of the Control Programs

12.11.3 Cleaning and Maintenance of Equipment

12.12 Care and Handling of Birds in Lairage

12.12.1 Handling During Receiving and Unloading

The operator's Written Animal Welfare Program will provide methods to ensure that:

12.12.2 Handling in Lairage

The operator's Written Animal Welfare Policy will provide methods to ensure that loads of birds are:

Personnel working in lairage have training to handle the birds in their care; the operator's Written Animal Welfare Program will provide methods to ensure that:

12.12.3 Handling Injured in Transport and DOA Birds

Birds received at the establishment with injuries (fractures, deep wounds etc.) that are likely to be a source of pain and suffering and moribund birds must be humanely euthanized without delay.

Birds that died for any reason, other than slaughter, must be counted and recorded as DOA, and then are conveyed to the inedible products area of the establishment.

12.12.4 Handling During Live Hanging or Shackling (Poultry)

Employees who handle live animals will be trained and supervised.

Equipment will be maintained and used in a manner to ensure that birds are not injured or damaged (fractured wings, limbs, lacerations).

Abusive actions or mishandling of animals must not be tolerated. This must be clearly stated in the written animal welfare program and the training material.

The operator is responsible for providing training for and supervision of personnel who work with live birds. The training will include:

The following principles apply to the handling and care of birds that are hung:

12.13 Euthanizing Birds in the Lairage

Injured, very small, moribund and escaped birds that are not slated for processing must be humanely euthanized, using a method approved by the VIC.

Euthanasia will be performed by trained competent employees.

The dead birds must be transported to the inedible area for disposal.

12.14 Stunning and Bleeding of Poultry – General Requirements

The plant operator's Written Animal Welfare program must include written handling and stunning protocols for each method of stunning and category of food animals and/or poultry slaughtered at the establishment.

The plant operator must use methods of stunning or killing that meet industry standards and must abide by regulatory requirements that are suitable for poultry.

These include:

  1. Electrical stunning
  2. Gas or gas mixture (Controlled Atmospheric Stunning or CAS)
  3. Captive bolt (specifically designed for poultry)

The plant operator's Written Animal Welfare Program must include:

12.14.1 Electrical Stunning of Poultry (Water Bath)

The plant operator's written Animal Welfare program must address:

Electric Stunning of Poultry (Head Only)

Electrical stunning includes hand-held and automated electrical stunning devices.

The plant operator's written program must ensure that/include:

12.14.2 Controlled Atmosphere Stunning of Poultry

Gas can be highly effective and has the advantage that the birds are minimally handled and not shackled while fully conscious. However gas stunning is not instantaneous. Gas stunning must be regularly monitored. Poultry can regain sensibility after they have been stunned with a gas at variable time periods, which can be quite rapid, depending on the gas concentration level and exposure time. Regaining of sensibility can even occur when the process is a stun to kill (birds are intended to be dead after the gas stunning process). Therefore, even if an irreversible gas stunning system is used, the birds must be monitored closely for recovery, and should be bled as soon as possible after exiting the stunning system.

Gas or gas mixtures (Controlled Atmosphere Stunning (CAS)) may be used to stun poultry provided the following requirements are met:

The following principles apply to humane handling for gas stunning:


12.14.3 Captive Bolt Stunning of Poultry

This method of stunning:

12.14.4 Decapitation of Poultry

Decapitation of birds:

12.14.5 Neck Cutting and Bleeding

(For all methods of stunning)

The operator must have a written program in place for the slaughter and bleeding of birds.

Personnel who carry out the slaughter of all food animals shall be competent, trained, and supervised.

Employees shall be regularly assessed and records maintained of their performance

The carotid arteries and jugular veins of birds should be severed. The fastest method of exsanguination is to include both carotids and both jugular veins during the cutting/bleeding process. Blood loss and death must be rapid.

Automated neck cutting requires:

Birds should be bled within 15 seconds of electric stunning.

Birds must bleed for at least 90 seconds:

Uncut red birds

There is zero tolerance for birds missing the automatic knife and being missed by the backup cutter; these animals have the potential to enter the scald tank alive and fully conscious (uncut red birds).

The CFIA VIC will be notified each time such an event occurs.

Note: Uncut red birds are different from inadequately bled carcasses

Inadequately bled birds

Inadequately bled birds differ from uncut red birds, they have a neck cut, but for a variety of reasons, the bleedout is not effective.

The presence of these mild to brick-red carcasses at the preselection station may be an indication of improper sticking.

When carcasses have been neck-cut but have not bled out properly (inadequately bled birds), the company must evaluate the stunning and killing procedures.

The operator must have a program in place that includes a reasonable limit of cut- but inadequately-bled birds (mild to brick red carcasses found at preselection, or after the scald tank and prior to the head pulling mechanism).

There must be a written procedure in place to address this situation.

When the limit set by the operator is exceeded the operator shall evaluate the stunning and killing procedures and take immediate corrective actions to correct the inadequate bleeding.

Operators will notify the VIC when excessive numbers of inadequately bled birds occur.

12.14.6 Backup Neck Cutting/Bleeding of Poultry (For all methods of stunning)

The operator's Written Welfare Program will address the backup neck cutting and bleeding operation. The plan will:

12.14.7 Assessing Sensibility (Consciousness) in Poultry

The operator's Written Animal Welfare Program will provide methods to assess sensibility in the species slaughtered and for the type of stunning equipment in use.

The evaluation of effective versus ineffective stun must be a collective assessment of all possible signs, not any one sign and includes an assessment whether all birds appear the same when looking down the line.

The following principles apply:

Concerns about assessing sensibility should be discussed with the VIC and the RVO. Signs of Effective Electrical Stunning (Poultry)

The following can be signs of effective stun or insensibility/unconsciousness with electrical stunning (electronarcosis) or killing (electrocution):

Return to sensibility (consciousness) during bleed-out is not acceptable.

Signs of ineffective stun or return to sensibility/consciousness with electrical stunning can be: Signs of Effective Gas Stunning (Poultry)

Signs of an effective kill or stun with gas can include:

Signs of ineffective stun or return to sensibility/consciousness with gas stunning can be: Captive Bolt (Poultry)

Signs of effective stunning with captive bolt can include:

12.15 Domesticated Rabbit Slaughter and Dressing Procedures

In general, the slaughter and dressing of rabbit carcasses follow the procedures described for poultry in this chapter.

Rabbit-processing slaughter establishments must have a written animal welfare program that addresses all activities, as per poultry-processing slaughter plant establishments (see Section A).

12.15.1 Facilities/Equipment and Animal Welfare

See the relevant sections in Poultry Welfare Part C.

12.15.2 Transportation and Rabbit Welfare

The time in transport for rabbits begins when the first animal is loaded into a crate module or container and ends when the last animal is unloaded from the crate module or container at the slaughter establishment.

12.15.3 Receiving, Holding and Unloading of Rabbits

Pre-slaughter handling and transport of rabbits has both food quality and welfare impacts. Stress (including heat, cold, humidity, noise levels, and stress related to handling) must be minimized while in lairage.

Rabbits are adapted to extract water from their food. If they must be held for extended times in a slaughter establishments their requirement for water can be met by providing carrots or similar food source.

The operator's written welfare program (including staff training) will identify, monitor, and minimize these sources of stress.

Deviations in procedure equipment or handling will be identified, corrected and recorded.

Compliance and enforcement requirements are the same as with poultry.

12.15.4 Handling and Rabbit Welfare

Rabbits have fragile skeletons and strong muscles in the hindquarters. They are susceptible to hind legs and vertebral fractures if handled improperly.

Prohibited methods of stunning and killing of rabbits:

Acceptable methods for stunning rabbits Electrical Stunning

Electrical stunning includes hand-held and automated electrical stunning devices.

The plant operator's Written Animal Welfare Program must include methods to ensure that: Captive Bolt Stunning

Signs of a good stun:

12.15.5 Hanging and Rabbit Welfare

12.15.6 Bleeding (Rabbits)

12.16 Ritual Slaughter of Poultry and Rabbits

Plant operators must meet the following requirements to process animals by ritual slaughter:

Animals Not eligible for Ritual Slaughter (Rejected Birds or Rabbits)

12.17 Unacceptable Procedures or Acts for Poultry and Rabbit Slaughter

Deliberate acts of abuse or mishandling of birds include, but are not limited to:

12.18 Priorities During Unscheduled Stoppages

Unforeseen stoppages in production do occur.

A written plan must be developed and maintained for unscheduled stoppages. This plan must consider the types and condition of animals on the premises, as well as the types of holding facilities, ventilation, and time since feed withdrawal and bio security.

The contingency plan should address:

12.19 Reference material and links

Meat Inspection Act

Meat Inspection Regulations

Health of Animals Act

Health of Animals Regulations

Humane Transport/Animal Welfare

Humane Handling and Slaughter in Canada

Annex A: Species-Specific Stunning Guidelines – Red Meat Species

Annex C: Objective Criteria for Humane Slaughter – Red Meat Species

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