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Archived - Chapter 12: Food Animal Humane Handling and Slaughter – Animal Welfare Requirements
Part A: All Species

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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):

  • receive appropriate training to execute the tasks for which they are responsible;
  • are qualified to perform their duties;
  • have training records kept; and
  • are effectively supervised.

Training material must address:

  • normal animal appearance and behaviour;
  • how human actions may affect animal behaviour and welfare;
  • how to recognize animal behaviours of concern;
  • signs of trauma, distress, and disease;
  • humane handling techniques for each species that is slaughtered; and
  • how to report deviations so that timely corrective action can be taken.

Elements of the Animal Welfare Control Program must include:

  • names or position of the persons who are responsible for each task;
  • specific methods and procedures that will be implemented to achieve the outcome standards expected by management (required outcomes);
  • procedures and person(s) who are responsible to monitor and verify that the program is implemented and effective;
  • the frequency and method of checking facilities and equipment;
  • employee training, competence and supervision required to perform the task;
  • procedures to record non-compliances and corrective actions that will /have been taken; and
  • animal welfare contingency plans (Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)) that address predictable events and emergencies that may have arisen during staging of the load, loading, transportation prior to reception of the animals, the time spent waiting to unload (for animals that are still in cages but within the establishment, this includes the time spent waiting while the trailers are parked but the crates/cages have not been yet unloaded, plus the time spent in the crates and cages after unloading from the trailer), unloading, handling while in lairage, preparation for and/or restraint for stunning, stunning, shackling, and bleeding.

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:

  • the outcome of previous checks; and
  • other factors that may affect the efficiency of the stunning process (e.g.: an increased frequency of monitoring should be conducted when training new staff, when there have been equipment failures, when new equipment is installed).

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
  • The use of video technology can be a tool to supplement an establishment's systematic, animal welfare program, but not a substitute for live monitoring. Video technology cannot replace hands on inspection activities or good commercial practices.
  • Cameras are useful but not a requirement to ensure that animals are handled humanely at slaughter.
  • The CFIA encourages federal establishment to use appropriate video or electronic monitoring, however video surveillance alone does not assure effective evaluation and monitoring of the sensibility of animals, Assessing sensibility requires observation of the animals head, face and position from several visual perspectives over time: including pre-stun handling, the time in the stun box, and the acts of stunning, sticking, shackling and hoisting as well as bleed out.

Points to consider:

  • The electronic monitoring system must be designed, maintained, cleaned and operated to permit a continuous view of animals from unloading, as they are handled in lairage as well as humane stunning, sticking and bleed out.
  • Video records may substitute for paper records to meet program requirements (if so: similar storage time requirements apply, and when deviations are identified during routine monitoring video records should be reviewed for similar patterns).
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