UK – Animals in British slaughterhouses are correctly stunned before slaughter in over 99 per cent of cases, according to official figures released by the Government.
The new figures expose the myth that animals are suffering welfare compromises in large numbers – a statement used by those who support the practice of slaughter without pre-stunning.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has been calling for an end to the practice of non-stun slaughter on the grounds of animal welfare. BVA’s position is informed by scientific evidence that shows that slaughter without stunning unnecessarily compromises animal welfare. The position is supported by the Farm Animal Welfare Committee, RSPCA, and the Humane Slaughter Association.
Those who oppose BVA’s position on non-stun slaughter have suggested that mis-stunning occurs in large numbers causing a greater welfare problem than slaughter without stunning, quoting figures of nine to 31 per cent from a Europe-wide Efsa report in 2004.
The new figures reveal that in 2013 there were only nine reports of mis-stunning incidents in cattle (0.0004 per cent of cattle slaughtered) and three reports in sheep (0.00002 per cent). These reports are made by Official Veterinarians working in abattoirs and collated by the Food Standards Agency on behalf of Defra.
Reported incidents of mis-stunning in poultry totalled 13 in 2013 but as poultry are usually slaughtered on a line system a single incident will normally represent more than one animal. It is therefore not possible to calculate the percentage of mis-stuns against the total slaughter numbers.
Commenting on the new figures, Robin Hargreaves, President of the British Veterinary Association, said: “These new official figures reveal that mis-stunning is extremely rare in British abattoirs and expose the myth that mis-stunning is a greater animal welfare problem than non-stun slaughter.
“Of course any incident of mis-stunning must be acted upon and the public should be reassured that there is legislation in place to ensure that mis-stunned animals are immediately re-stunned to render them unconscious. Each incident is recorded and immediate and appropriate action is taken to address any problems.
“As veterinary surgeons our number one priority is animal welfare and that is why we continue to call for an end to non-stun slaughter which unnecessarily compromises welfare at the time of slaughter.
“We are pleased that the new figures will help to ensure the debate takes place with all of the facts.”
1. The answer to Parliamentary Question 192080 reveals the number of reports of mis-stunning in each year from 2008 to present broken down by species:
Neil Parish: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many reports of mis-stunning before slaughter for each method of stunning he has received in each year since 2004, broken down by type of animal. 
Jane Ellison: The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is unable to provide information before 2008, nor to break down incidents reported according to the different methods of stunning. The FSA is able to report the number of mis-stunning incidents recorded from 2008 and these are detailed as follows by species:
Number of reports of mis-stunning identified during routine inspection of slaughtering in approved meat establishments for different types of animals
Notes: 1. Data for 2008 covers the period 27 March to 31 December 2014 only. 2. Data for 2014 covers 1 January 2014 to 28 February 2014 only.
2. Percentages are calculated using total slaughter figures for cattle and sheep from Eblex. Monthly breakdowns for slaughter figures for cattle and sheep are available on the Eblex website under ‘UK slaughterings’:
Cattle: slaughter figures for cattle in GB (Heifers, steers, young bulls, adult bulls, cows and light calves)
Total cattle slaughtered = 2,381,307
Total reported mis-stuns = 6
Percentage = 0.00025%
Total cattle slaughtered = 2,227,912
Total reported mis-stuns = 10
Percentage = 0.00044%
Total cattle slaughtered = 2,180,506
Total reported mis-stuns = 9
Percentage = 0.00041%
Sheep: slaughter figures for sheep in GB (‘ewes and rams’ and ‘other sheep and rams’)
Total sheep slaughtered = 12,499,495
Total reported mis-stuns = 2
Percentage = 0.000016%
Total sheep slaughtered = 13,322,063
Total reported mis-stuns = 8
Percentage = 0.00006005%
Total sheep slaughtered = 14,075,236
Total reported mis-stuns = 3
Percentage = 0.00002131%