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European Union: New Rules on Protection of Animals for Killing or Slaughter

(Nov. 24, 2009) Within the European Union, 360 million sheep, goats, pigs, and cattle and several billion poultry are killed annually; in addition, 25 million animals are killed for their fur. In September 2009, the European Union adopted new legislation designed to safeguard animal welfare at the time of slaughter. The scope of the regulation extends also to animals kept for farming, and it replaces existing minimum standards set by Directive 93/119/EC. (Council Regulation (EC) No. 1099/2009 of 24 September 2009 on the Protection of Animals at the Time of Killing (1) [applicable as of Jan. 1, 2013], 2009, O.J. L303/1 (Sept. 18, 2009), online extract available at [scroll down the page to see full text].)

The main features of the regulation are:

  • increased responsibility of business operators, through the use of standard operating procedures: operators must evaluate the efficiency of the methods used to stun the animals prior to killing by carrying out regular checks to ensure that the animals do not regain consciousness during stunning process and death. Slaughterhouses must also ensure the presence of an Animal Welfare Officer to be in charge of implementing animal welfare measures.
  • training and research on animal welfare: slaughterhouses must be staffed with personnel who possess a certificate of competence pertaining to animal welfare. Certificates will be evaluated by independent bodies.
  • new requirements for killing animals to control infectious diseases, which call for better planning, supervision and reporting; continuation of major stunning methods, such as the waterbath stunner for poultry, and the use of carbon dioxide in certain cases, because of a lack of practical alternatives, even though such methods are known to cause stress to animals.
  • continuation of particular methods of slaughter without stunning, as indicated for religious purposes, provided that the slaughtering takes place in a slaughterhouse.

An important aspect of this legislation with implications for U.S. exporters of meat to the European Union is that slaughterhouses in third countries are required to comply with the standards contained in the regulation. In order to assess equivalency of standards used in third countries, the standards employed by the World Organization for Animal Health will be taken into consideration. (Id.)