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Guidelines for ritual slaughter of food animals without pre-slaughter stunning

Requirements for the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations

Although the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) came into force on January 15, 2019, certain requirements may apply in 2020 and 2021 based on food commodity, type of activity and business size. For more information, refer to the SFCR timelines.

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Introduction

The licence holders who choose to conduct ritual slaughter without pre-slaughter stunning at the establishment must fully understand all the associated animal welfare risks that can occur during the process and their responsibility in recognizing and controlling these risks, all included as part of the establishment Preventive Control Plan (PCP) for animal welfare. They remain responsible even if the person actually conducting the ritual slaughter is a contracted slaughterer and regardless that the slaughter activity itself is carried out in accordance with religious rules (Islamic or Judaic requirements).

The licence holder must take into account that properly conducted ritual slaughter without pre-slaughter stunning takes time; this means that the operational line speed must be adjusted to allow all the preventive measures for the animal welfare risks to be carried out effectively during any part of this process.

It is the licence holder's responsibility to obtain any religious information from the appropriate religious associations (either Halal or Kosher) before starting to conduct ritual slaughter without pre-slaughter stunning in the establishment. Furthermore, the licence holder should become thoroughly familiar with the requirements for either Halal or Judaic slaughter in order to develop effective preventive measures as part of the PCP for animal welfare.

For required outcomes under the SFCR for each regulatory provision of ritual slaughter without pre-slaughter stunning see: Ritual slaughter without pre-slaughter stunning

Competence, qualification and training as part of the Preventive Control Plan (PCP)

Table of summary of key points of animal welfare risk, and recommended preventive measures as part of the PCP during ritual slaughter without pre-slaughter stunning of mammals

Key point of animal welfare risk Examples Recommended preventive measures

Food animal (mammals)

Species, breed, age, gender, temperament, handling experience must be conducive for the outcome of a calm animal for ritual slaughter without pre-slaughter stunning to avoid as much distress as possible to the animal or danger to people in contact with the animal

Choose for species and breed, individual temperament and most experience with human handling: animals must be docile and calm

Animals more accustomed to human contact and handling will be easier to keep calm

Handling before restraint

Animals not calm enough will not be as easily restrained for the ritual cut; this can endanger the human handlers and cause the animal distress and possible injury

Training protocol highlights the employee's ability to keep animals calm at all times using animal behaviour knowledge and competencies

Only well trained, competent, qualified employees restrain the animal

Keeping animals calm by gentle and quiet handling is a requirement for Halal and Judaic slaughter

Washing the restraint area and pen free of blood, urine and saliva (in the absence of animals) will help animals maintain secure footing and in combination with using negative air pressure directed away from the entrance to this area, will help reduce the stress pheromones secreted in this environment by other previously slaughtered animals

Washing the neck for the ritual cut should not distress the animal otherwise the animal may not remain calm.

Animal restraint (pen, conveyor, manual)

Restraint equipment that has design/construction flaws or poor maintenance can cause the animal to struggle and vocalize prior to the cut because of distress and pain

Poor access to the animal's neck because of equipment design/construction flaws or equipment location (including inadequate lighting) can hinder executing a ritual cut, in accordance with SFCR regulatory requirements

Limited ability to see the head of animals to monitor indicators can impede assessment of the animal's state of consciousness or to be able to stun the animal if necessary

An animal that is restrained for prolonged periods of time can become distressed

Manual and mechanical restraint can distress or cause injury to the animal if the animal is handled too roughly

Restraint pen or conveyor must be properly designed, constructed and maintained in good repair to optimally control movement of the animal without applying too much pressure; any parts in contact with the animal should be smooth, rounded edges

Equipment must be located in a slaughter area that is well designed for this type of process, including proper lighting to prevent balking at the pen entrance

Consider using a belly support/lift to keep the animal from falling too soon after the ritual cut to allow a longer bleeding time in the upright position

Animals are not moved into restraint equipment or manually restrained until everything is ready to minimize time animal is restrained

Head restraint

Mechanical or manual head restraint that is not optimal either because of hyperextension or too little neck tension can impede the blood flow from the wound after the ritual cut and can cause distress to the animal

Mechanical head restrainer must be properly designed and function correctly for the specific food animal species, age and size

The head of the animal should not be restrained more than 10 seconds before the ritual cut (this includes all the steps from the head restraint to the ritual cut)

Manual or mechanical restraint of the head must ensure optimum stretching and accessibility of the neck for a ritual cut, in accordance with SFCR regulatory requirements

Ritual cut (bleeding/slaughter)

Possible problems associated with the cut include:

  • inadequate knife length, sharpness and maintenance
  • Too low a cut on the neck, which can be associated with increased risks of constrictions (artery springing back into its connective sheath) or encapsulated hematomas of the carotid cut ends also called false aneurysms or ballooning effect
  • If all 4 major blood vessels are not cut because of incorrect positioning of the knife at an angle rather than a straight cut, this will not result in a perfuse blood flow and will delay the loss of consciousness

A properly placed cut in the upper 1/3 of the neck at the level of the first cervical vertebra (C1) will facilitate better blood flow by avoiding the false aneurysms; therefore this should always be included as part of the expected technique

There must be adequate room for the ritual slaughterer to access the animal's neck to make a straight cut rather than one at an angle

The technique of cutting must include the ability to execute a fluid ritual cut, with no lifting of the knife off of the neck for another cut, the use of a knife with a length at least twice the width of the animal's neck and knife maintenance for sharpness and freedom from nicks or other defects; all of these are essential qualifications/competencies for the ritual slaughterer

Post-cut management

Blood flow can be impeded if the wound is not kept open long enough because of too early release from the head restraint, especially the chin lift.

Once released from the restraint, the position of the head relative to the body can obstruct the blood flow for example, any bending of the neck that closes/covers the wound

Once released from the restraint, direct pressure on the neck with any part of the restraint pen can also obstruct blood flow for example, neck contact with the floor or side rail of the pen

The body and head restraint should be loosened slightly after the ritual cut to aid blood flow but the chin lift kept up to keep wound open

Once the animal is released completely, the operator must ensure that there are no additional impediments to the blood flow

The animal must not fall onto the restrainer edges when released from the head restrainer to prevent pain from wound and pen edge contact

Monitors of animals must understand and use the indicators correctly to ensure the animal is sufficiently unconscious for total release from restraint

Implement immediate post-cut stunning as corrective action for animals not unconscious within set performance criteria

Suspending mammalian food animals

Animals that are hoisted or shackled while still conscious will experience fear, distress and pain

Monitors of animals must understand and use the indicators correctly to ensure the animal is unconscious before hoisting

Implement immediate post-cut stunning as corrective action for an animal not unconscious within set performance criteria or exhibiting any signs of distress or any signs of suffering before suspending it

Signs of distress or suffering include panic, mouth movements for vocalizing efforts, bulging eyes, trying to regain sternal/upright position

Include 0 tolerance as performance criteria for animals still conscious after suspension on the slaughter shackle line; stun such animals immediately

Dressing procedures

(Includes wound manipulation and extra cuts for religious purposes)

Animals that are still conscious and alive while on the shackle rail, are at risk of any dressing procedure that will cause suffering

Include 0 tolerance as performance criteria for animals still alive on the slaughter shackle line

Stun immediately and wait until the animal is dead

Do a root cause analysis to determine how these unacceptable events happened before continuing and to avoid their recurrence

Restraint and restraint equipment for Halal or Kosher ritual slaughter for domestic mammals

Ritual slaughter cut

Signs of unconsciousness or death in mammalian food animals in ritual slaughter without pre-slaughter stunning

Since there is a gradual loss of consciousness from progressive anoxia during ritual slaughter rather than immediate loss of consciousness, as occurs for some methods of stunning, this can complicate the assessment of unconsciousness prior to hoisting and death for the following reasons:

In view of these complicating factors for this type of slaughter, a careful and multi-criteria approach for the evaluation of the indicator signs, starting from the moment the food animal is in the restrainer and ritually slaughtered, until it is dead, is required to prevent avoidable individual animal suffering.

Table of recommended indicator signs for monitoring (those with higher predictive values)

Indicator signs to assess whether animal is still conscious

The absence of any of these indicators is not a reliable assessment for unconsciousness

Indicator signs to assess whether animal is unconsciousness

Standing posture (should not persist longer than 30 – 40 seconds for adult bovines, steers and heavy calves; 10 – 15 seconds for small ruminants, including small calves, as well as for rabbits)

Tongue stiff and curled

Vocalizing movements

Spontaneous blinking (especially in combination with eye tracking movements)

Threat reflex

Absence of rhythmic breathing (2 or more regular rib movements in and out)

Absence of palpebral reflex (after 3 consecutive negative results, 20 seconds apart)

Absence of corneal reflex (after 3 consecutive negative results, 20 seconds apart)

Other useful indicators for monitoring for assessment of unconsciousness include:

Indicators to assess whether the animal is dead include:

Stunning as a corrective action procedure

Ritual slaughter without pre-slaughter stunning of birds

Signs of unconsciousness/death for birds in ritual slaughter without pre-slaughter stunning

Birds may be suspended when assessed at least as unconscious but must be assessed to be dead prior to scalding; at least a 90 second bleed-out time prior to scalding is recommended.

Birds not considered eligible for ritual slaughter by the ritual slaughterman

Suitability of food animal species for ritual slaughter without pre-slaughter stunning

Ritual slaughter with routine prior or post-cut stunning

Routine stunning, either prior or immediately post-cut, should be encouraged whenever possible for ritual slaughter.

When post-cut stunning is part of the protocol for ritual slaughter, best practices are that it is conducted immediately (within seconds) after the ritual cut, prior to collapse.

The landmarks and requirements for humane stunning, either done prior or post-cut, are the same as when used prior to cutting and bleeding in conventional slaughter with stunning. Stunning, when done for ritual slaughter, must be carried out in accordance with the regulations and the policies for stunning requirements and best practices at all times.

References and additional information

CFIA References and additional information

CFIA Regulatory requirements for humane treatment of food animals during slaughtering activities under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations
CFIA guidelines of best practices

Additional References and information

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