VETS have said that Welfare at Time of Killing (WATOK) regulations have room for improvement following a review of their effectiveness five years after introduction.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) said it had recommended that non-stun slaughter regulation was improved so that “supply met demand” and that produce was labelled, to give consumers a clear choice whether to buy it or not.

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It added there was an “urgent need” for research into the development of recoverable stunning methods that effectively stun birds of all sizes, strains, and ages, and remove the need for live shackling and inversion pre-slaughter.

And the BVA said all electrical-waterbath stunning of poultry should be carried out in accordance with the minimum currents laid down in Annex I of EC 1099/2009;

Defra published its review on 27 January.

BVA president James Russell said: “We agree with the report’s findings that current WATOK regulations provide a good framework to support positive animal health and welfare outcomes.

Humane death

“And we’re proud of the Official Veterinarians who play an integral role in securing high standards of animal health and welfare in slaughterhouses.

“It is critically important that we have evidence-based legislation in place so that slaughter processes result in a humane death for animals, that minimises avoidable pain, distress, fear, and suffering.

“But it’s clear there is room for improvement.

Commitment to action

“We’re pleased that several BVA recommendations were highlighted as key areas for improvements in the current regulations.

“But we’re concerned that the publication of the review did not include a commitment to action.

“The next step must be for the Government to demonstrate its intentions to be a world leader in animal welfare across the board by implementing the recommendations, which are supported by vets, animal welfare experts, and industry.”