Chapter 12: Food Animal Humane Handling and Slaughter – Animal Welfare Requirements

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Under the authority of the Meat Inspection Regulations, all operators of federally registered slaughter establishments must comply with the Animal Welfare requirements, including those that relate to receiving, ante-mortem examination procedures, and all stages of handling, stunning and bleeding of live food animals. The operator of the federally registered slaughter establishment is responsible to have written animal welfare control programs that are fully implemented as outlined in Meat Hygiene Manual of Procedures (MOP).

The operator is also responsible to include in the animal welfare control plans any activities conducted in the federally registered establishment that are enforceable under the Health of Animals Regulations, Part XII, Transportation of Animals, such as the unloading of animals from conveyances, which includes animals that are still in cages or crates but within the establishment.

Additional information is available at: Chapter 12 – Guidance on animal welfare topics in the current Meat MOP

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Part A: All Species

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)
Ammeter
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)
CFIA
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)
CVS
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)
DOA
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)
Electro-immobilization
The use of electric current to immobilize animals – which should not be confused with electric stunning; immobilized animals are paralyzed but sensible (Électro-immobilisation)
Electronarcosis
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)
Exsanguination
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)
Frequency
(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)
Insensible
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)

Moribund
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"
Obex
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)
Perforation
When a projectile (from a firearm) exits the skull on the opposite side from which it entered (Perforation)
Pithing
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)
Poultry
Birds that are farmed as domesticated animals and that are used for food (Volaille)
Resistance
Properties that limit current flow (related to electricity) (Résistance)
Restraint
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)
Ricochet
When a projectile (from a firearm) rebounds off a surface (Ricochet)
Sensibility
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)
Shackle
An instrument used to suspend animals by one or two legs (Étrier)
Shackling
Suspending birds or red meat animals by a shackle (Accrochage)
Slaughter
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)
SOP
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)
Sticking
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)
Stun
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)
Unconscious
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).

Part B: Red Meat Species

12.3 Slaughter Establishment Operator's Responsibilities

Communication - Guidelines:

  • Communicate expectations to Producers and Transporters (for loading, transportation, and unloading, if applicable).
  • Define humane transport and welfare standards for the "supplier" (animal transporter), similar to any incoming product (receiving of animals).
  • Collect letters of guarantee, documenting the parties understanding of their responsibilities under applicable legislation.
  • Provide written guidelines for transporters and receivers regarding unloading and handling, including expectations regarding non-ambulatory animals (down on truck).
  • Provide transporters with:
    • fitness-to-transport criteria;
    • recommendations to minimize stress during loading (e.g., load early in the day to avoid exposure to summer heat);
    • updates if plans change; and
    • emergency contact numbers.
  • Schedule delivery to minimize animal stress.

Implement a written Animal Welfare Control Program so that:

  • problems are reported, documented, and investigated;
  • corrective action is taken in instances of non-compliance;
  • preventative measures are developed as part of the response to identified problems; and
  • normal operating parameters of the slaughter process are well documented so that it is easy to identify problems.

Employee Training

  • Provide humane handling training to all employees who work with live animals.
  • Document the training of each employee.

Train employees to recognize:

  • signs of normal behaviour and indicators of stress, suffering, and illness in each species;
  • who to notify if animal welfare problems or unexpected events occur;
  • what to do with animals that have been compromised during transport;
  • handling procedures for unloading, including special provisions for compromised animals
  • emergency contact numbers;
  • when to notify the CFIA regarding transport issues;
  • how and when to notify CFIA veterinarians (e.g., if there are dead on arrival [DOA] or an animal welfare problem); and
  • contingency plans for predictable events (e.g., storms, vehicle accident, breakdown of equipment, unexpected delivery of animals that have been in traffic accidents).

Equipment

  • Design and maintain the facility and equipment to promote efficient flow of animals and to minimize injury or undue stress to animals.
  • Design and equipment must have the capacity to humanely, effectively and consistently unload, handle, inspect and house all species that are slaughtered.
  • Design, maintain and operate the facility and equipment in a manner that meats MIR, HAR requirements.

Monitor Animal welfare indicators detected on post mortem (e.g., frostbite, bruising, whip marks [evidence of abuse], fractures, etc.)

Transfer of Care and Control of the Animal

Trained Establishment employee will examine each load and supervise unloading by:

  • documenting the condition of the load and time of transfer of care and control from transporters; and
  • recording the name of the transport owner and the driver, along with the vehicle identification for each load

12.4 Red Meat Facility Design and Equipment

Federally registered establishments must meet the requirements for the design, operation, and maintenance of suitable lairage and slaughter facilities pursuant to s. 28 of the MIR.

For the effective implementation of any animal welfare control program and performance requirements, the slaughter facility and premises should be designed with the following elements:

General Information

  • These must be designed to facilitate humane unloading, handling, housing, stunning, and bleeding of all the species and categories of animals slaughtered.
  • These must be designed and maintained to promote efficient flow of animals and to minimize distress and injury (consider: signs of distress and injury may include: animals vocalizing, eyes bulging in panic, backing up, refusal to move, piling, struggle or panic, missing hair, bruising patterns).

Design requirements for cattle, bison, horses, hogs, cervids and small ruminants are unique for each species, Plant operators who wish to change or add additional species or categories of animals must submit written plans to the Veterinarian in Charge (VIC). Required facility modifications and written program changes (including training) must be made prior to slaughtering additional species or categories of animals.

Facilities and equipment that can reasonably be expected to meet the requirements must be in place prior to commencing slaughter of a particular species.

Where design deficiencies impact animal welfare in existing plants, the plant operator must implement an action plan to effectively address the problem within a time frame that is set in consultation with the CFIA VIC.

Slaughter establishments must have sufficient capacity in livestock pens (or holding areas) to ensure that animals can be unloaded in a timely fashion and are not exposed to the elements (including lack of ventilation on a stationary transport vehicle).

Livestock holding capacity can normally accommodate half number of animals slaughtered in a normal shift, alternately, the operator must write and implement an effective contingency plan which ensures that animal welfare is protected in the event that slaughter is delayed, slowed or stopped.

When writing contingency plans consider/address:

  • suitable alternate locations where animals can be unloaded, slaughtered or temporarily housed (including consideration of distance, weather conditions, total transport time, suitability/availability of transport vehicles and biosecurity)
  • timely unloading of imported animals where temporary housing in other locations is not an option (those animals designated for immediate slaughter transported in sealed vehicles)

12.4.1 Unloading Facility Design

Unloading ramps and/or docks must be designed and maintained to minimize slipping, distress, and injury. They must be sturdy, well maintained, drained, have secure footing (i.e. non-slippery, scored, or slats) and have sides that are sufficiently high to prevent escape or injury.

The unloading facilities must permit the inspection of animals.

The unloading facilities must accommodate the types, widths, and heights of all transport vehicles used to transport animals to the plant.

The yard, dock, and/or ramp must enable animals to be unloaded without a gap occurring between the unloading facility and the transport vehicle(s). There should be no gap between the sides and the floor of the ramp that could cause injury or distraction.

12.4.2 Lairage Design

The lairage facility must be designed to enable staff (CFIA) to:

  • observe and/or inspect animals; and
  • work safely, as per OSH requirements, regardless of the species, age, size, sex, or temperament of the animals involved.

The lairage facility, pens, and gates must be designed, maintained, and operated to:

  • accommodate the species and class of animal (e.g., size, sight lines, height, and behaviour);
  • facilitate ease of movement;
    • prevent baulking, promote one-way flow with minimum stress;
  • prevent injury to animals;
    • e.g., no sharp edges or protrusions;
  • prevent escape;
  • enable secure footing (drained, maintained);
  • reduce unnecessary noise and odours; and
  • provide protection from exposure to the elements, taking into account the origin of the animals, the season and how they are normally housed.
Facility requirements for ante mortem inspection
  • the design requirements and equipment must be suitable for each species size, sex and temperament that is slaughtered; and
  • less domesticated food animal species (e.g.: cervids and bison) usually require structures with solid sides, minimized sight lines (elevated observation platforms or walkways may be required to effectively inspect the animals (ante mortem)and to ensure humane handling requirements are met).
"Subject" Pens

The pen(s) used to hold subject animals must be readily accessible and as close as possible to the unloading docks.

The design must allow restraint of food animals for inspection.

Lairage space
  • The lairage facility must have sufficient space and pens to separate incompatible animals, including separation of:
    • different species;
    • aggressive animals (those that are considered to be a danger to other animals);
    • horses with shoes on hind feet; and
    • animals that are sick, injured, or suspected of being sick; and animals that are condemned.
  • If animals are to be held overnight there should be room for animals to move, stand, and lie down simultaneously (if that is normal behaviour for the species).
    • See also Handling in Lairage (stocking density) section 12.5.3.
Water and Feeding Facilities in Lairage
  • All animals in lairage must have access to potable (and unfrozen) water in sufficient quantity to satisfy thirst.
  • Drinking fixtures (troughs, bowls, nipples) must :
    • be appropriate to the types of animals held;
    • minimize the risk of fouling by faeces;
    • kept clean at all time;
    • provide adequate space for access; and
    • be designed to prevent possible injury.
  • Animals held more than 24 hours must be fed: extended fasting periods have an impact on welfare including increased inter-animal aggression as well as decreasing meat quality.
Ventilation and Air Quality in Lairage
  • Food animals must be provided with adequate ventilation (consider animal adaptations for heat loss (e.g. pigs are not adapted for good thermoregulation and are especially susceptible to high temperatures) air quality, minimizing drafts, noises (increased noise, increases stress, which increases heart rate, which predisposes to hyperthermia and death), dead air spaces, animal comfort.
  • The ventilation systems will be:
    • designed and maintained to minimize drafts that cause discomfort or distress; and
    • effective, regardless of the season or weather.

Lighting in lairage:

  • must be available;
  • must allow animals to be visually evaluated on arrival and for ante mortem inspection (including during winter and summer, at the times of day that ante mortem inspection occurs); and
  • strategic lighting can be used to encourage movement of animals.
Written Programs for an Adjacent Feedlot

The plant operator must have a written protocol that addresses the care and handling of food animals upon receiving the animal for holding in a feedlot or similar lairage adjacent to the plant.

Operators are responsible for monitoring the written program to ensure compliance and to amend it if necessary.

12.4.3 Alleys and Chute Design

Alleys and chutes and stun boxes must be designed and maintained to promote the humane treatment of animals by:

  • providing secure footing;
  • facilitating free movement without coercion and without injury:
    • when alleys and chutes are reduced in width, it must be by a means that prevents excessive bunching of the animals. (e.g.: cattle chutes taper; hog chutes are stepped.)
  • enabling animal handlers to position themselves to facilitate the movement of animals;
  • ensuring that unloading ramps, alleys and chutes do not exceed the maximum angle of degrees of the slope permitted under the HAR requirements;
  • allowing the state of health and the condition of animals to be assessed; and
  • Gates and mechanical pushers must be designed, maintained and used in a manner that does not cause avoidable pain and distress.

Note: width, curvature, lighting, and visual environment are important considerations for chute design.

12.4.4 Pre-Stun Pen(s) Design

Design must facilitate the movement and supply of animals for slaughter.

  • A pre-stun pen between the holding pens and the chute promotes continuous flow of animals.
  • Pens with solid sides facilitate the movement of some species.

12.4.5 Stunning Area And Equipment For Stunning, Restraint Performance Requirements as Part of the Control Programs

The stunning area equipment used to stun, restrain, and convey food animals must be designed, maintained, and operated so:

  • animals have secure footing in the stun box;
  • animals enter the system without balking;
  • animals cannot turn around;
  • there is good access to the animal for stunning;
  • the animal can be monitored after they are stunned;
  • animals can be removed in case of emergency;
  • the equipment is operated in such a way that avoids causing stress or pain;
  • stunning boxes can accommodate and/or be adjusted to fit all sizes of animals slaughtered in the plant, so they can be effectively stunned; and
  • in most cases one animal is placed in the stunning box at a time to limit injury (except sheep, goats, pigs, and small cervids where animals can be less stressed when stunned in a group stun pen).

12.4.6 Cleaning and Maintenance of Stunning Equipment

The plant operator must have a written cleaning and maintenance program for all equipment associated with stunning and slaughter. The program must be effective and should meet the minimum requirements of the manufacturer. In situations where the operational conditions do not meet the equipment manufacturer's recommendations, documentation must be developed and maintained to explain the rationale for the variations. The program must be monitored on a regular basis and updated when equipment is replaced, modified or as required.

Cleaning and maintenance of stunning and restraint equipment must be performed as frequently as required to ensure they are maintained in good working condition.

Electrical stunning apparatus should be tested prior to use on animals, using appropriate resistors or dummy loads, as per the manufacturer's directions, ensuring the power is adequate to stun. Do not use live animals to test equipment.

Captive bolt function, including bolt velocity must be checked (using volt velocity checker or similar) as per the manufacturer's instructions.

The operator will maintain records of cleaning, maintenance, and monitoring of stunning equipment for one year.

Backup stunning equipment must be readily available for use and must be similarly cleaned and maintained.

12.5 Care and Handling of Red Meat Animals

The plant operator's Written Animal Welfare Control Program must address:

  • the care and handling of food animals delivered to and held at the plant;
  • the species, size, temperament and category of animals slaughtered;
  • monitoring the written program to ensure compliance; and
  • movement and handling animals must be done with a minimum of discomfort and excitement to prevent avoidable distress and pain:
    • minimize unnecessary noise;
    • minimize mixing of lots of animals;
    • select an appropriate group size when moving animals; and
    • do not use dogs to move food animals in federal establishments.

12.5.1 Live Animal Receiving

The condition of animals received must be assessed by establishment personnel upon their arrival at the plant with criteria and procedures to be defined in the Establishment's Written Animal Welfare Program. In addition, the operator will ensure:

  • personnel recognize normal behaviours;
  • personnel recognize abnormal behaviours that indicate suffering due to disease, injury or any other cause of abnormal behaviour;
  • ante mortem inspection is performed as described in MOP Chapter 17 Ante and Post Mortem Inspection Procedures, Dispositions, Monitoring and Controls – Red Meat Species, Ostriches, Rheas and Emus;
  • animals are evaluated for distress or suffering as soon as possible;
  • all compromised animals are identified; and
  • compromised animals that are suffering are humanely euthanized or slaughtered as soon as possible:
    • CFIA (VIC) must be notified about all these cases;
    • notification will occur before an establishment takes action with a compromised animal, except in situations where a prior (written) arrangement is made with the VIC and including those animals that arrive outside of the hours of operation; and
    • plant operators will keep records of these cases.

12.5.2 Handling Non-Ambulatory and Compromised Animals

Operators are required to make provision for injured and non-ambulatory animals in their facility.

The written animal welfare program must detail SOPs and training for establishment personnel to address non-ambulatory and compromised animals both:

  • on a transport vehicle; and
  • in the establishment.
12.5.2.1 Non-Ambulatory (Downers) in the Establishment

Non-ambulatory (downers) in the establishment:

  • are a priority and must be addressed immediately;
  • must not be moved while they are conscious;
  • must be stunned for slaughter or euthanized where they are located;
  • must be protected from injury caused by other animals; and
  • must be stunned before being loaded onto any moving device.

Non-ambulatory animals that are eligible for slaughter must:

  • be identified;
  • receive veterinary inspection prior to slaughter, and
  • be stunned and the carcass taken immediately to the kill floor.

Operators must clearly define the procedure to handle compromised animals, (including stressed hogs), those unwilling or unable to move, and those that "go down" on unloading chutes and in lairage.

  • Animals can be euthanized where they lie or can be allowed time to recover with protection from stress or injury until they can move under their own power.
  • These animals must not be physically encouraged, pushed, or dragged.
  • Establishment staff members who euthanize animals must be trained and competent.
12.5.2.2 Stressed Hogs
  • The desired outcome of the operator's procedure is that severely stressed animals are not stressed any further.
  • SOPs and training should address:
    • handling guidelines for employees:
      • what to evaluate including:
      • the number of animals affected;
      • severity and duration of signs will determine the most humane approach for handling the stressed hogs;
      • In the case of a severely stressed hog, either ambulatory or non-ambulatory, that is trembling, has patching skin discolouration and laboured breathing, it is unlikely to recover and must be killed immediately;
        • Options for humane handling of these animals include:
          • Immediate euthanasia where it is found and hold for veterinary inspection prior to disposal of the carcass as inedible
          • If a CFIA veterinarian or inspector is immediately available to perform an antemortem inspection and subsequently authorizes slaughter, then the animal is stunned where it is found and moved immediately to be bled and hung for evisceration
      • Less severely affected hogs where recovery is believed to be possible can be allowed to rest to recover, for a period of time that is not so unreasonably long as to cause undue stress, while being protected from continued stressors, including physical interaction with other hogs;
      • a written record of the animal, the events and actions taken.

12.5.3 Handling in Lairage

The plant operator's written animal welfare plan will ensure that:

  • the condition and state of health of animals in lairage are monitored regularly;
  • animals are moved calmly to avoid undue stress, slipping, and falling;
  • handlers avoid rushing or handling animals aggressively;
  • lairages are adequately cleaned (consider: hygiene, comfort, air quality, food safety, bio security);
  • the number of animals (for all sizes and categories) are indicated for each pen and holding area area:
    • The intent is to provide guidance about how many animals should be in each pen, the "appropriate" number will change with the situation.
    • Stocking densities for lairage of food animals are not prescribed, the huge variation in size of animals, behavior, environmental factors, ambient temperature and facility design dictates that this is an outcome based decision.
    • Consider: animals must have access to water(sufficient room for animals to negotiate their way to the water), segregation from animals that cause potential harm, ventilation and secure footing (drainage) and must be protected from avoidable distress.
    • Rule of thumb (per Temple Grandin): if all the animals were moved into one corner, there should be approximately ⅓ of the pen empty.
  • incompatible animals are segregated and penned separately;
  • provision is made to address the specific needs of lactating dairy cattle; and
  • very young animals (e.g. calves 8 days or less of age) are not to be transported or handled in a way that will cause undue suffering, avoidable pain or avoidable distress. Calves that arrive at a slaughter plant and have the appearance of a newborn should be humanely euthanized for welfare reasons.

Animals born during the journey or in lairage must be:

  • humanely euthanized; or
  • the dam and offspring are placed in a bedded pen containing no other animals, pending a disposition decision by the CFIA or VIC.
  • Animals subject to heat stress, such as pigs, can be cooled by the use of water sprays, fans, or other suitable means. Care must be taken to ensure animals are not chilled during periods of cooler temperature or exposed to excessive humidity and temperatures in hot weather. Intermittent spays often work better. There must be sufficient space for animals to move away from continuous water sprays or fans.

Washing sprays must be monitored to avoid causing unnecessary distress (e.g., avoid using sprays in very cold conditions or in very humid conditions).

Animals in lairage must have continuous access to water in accordance with MIR 65.

Animals held longer than 24 hours must be provided with appropriate feed (MIR 65).

Animals held overnight must be placed into clean pens that are drained or that have sufficient bedding to absorb urine.

The comfort and cleanliness of animals is monitored, as part of the operators' written animal welfare plan

Animals held overnight may require bedding: consider the management conditions animals are accustomed to, the normal group housing resting behaviours, food safety and biosecurity issues)

Animals must not be kept in a registered establishment for more than one week (MIR 43)

Animals must not be removed from a registered establishment without the written permission of the VIC, in accordance with MIR 43.

Live animals must not be left in restrainers (that is, shackles, stun box) during scheduled breaks and extended breakdowns MIR 62 (1).

12.5.4 Handling Aid

  • Use handling aids to encourage and direct movement with minimum contact.
  • The operator will ensure that handling aids are not used with excessive force.
12.5.4.1 Electric Prod Use

Use prods:

  • only to the degree necessary to assist with movement of the animals, applying the lowest effective voltage/amperage;
  • at a maximum of 50 volts; and
  • on pigs and large ruminants only.

Electric prods must not be used on:

  • sheep and goats of any age, or on calves (less than 3 months of age), piglets, or horses;
  • sensitive areas, such as the face, anus, genital region, udder, or belly;
  • compromised animals, non-ambulatory animals that cannot move; and
  • animals that have little or no room to move.
12.5.4.2 Acceptable Handling Aids
  • may include panels, flags, plastic paddles, flappers, moving boards, plastic bags, and metallic rattles
12.5.4.3 Unacceptable Handling Aids and Restraint
  • Implements, such as large sticks, sticks with sharp ends, metal piping, fencing wire, or heavy leather belts, are not to be used move animals.
  • Mechanical clamping or tying if the legs or feet of animals as a method of restraint are not acceptable.
  • Whips can only be used to create noise. Whips cannot contact the animal. Whipping an animal is unacceptable.

12.6 Euthanasia In Lairage

(Refer to 12.5.2 Handling Non-Ambulatory and Compromised Animals)

It is sometimes necessary to euthanize compromised animals or those that are suffering.

Euthanasia with captive bolt

  • Penetrative captive bolt stunning is theoretically reversible. The operator must have a written protocol in place to ensure that animals stunned in this way remain insensible until they are dead.
  • The procedure must be monitored as part of the written program.
  • One or more of the following methods may be considered:
    • a trained person remains with the animal for 30 minutes or until there are demonstrable signs that it is dead (no breathing, no corneal reflex, lack of anal tone, cyanotic mucous membranes); or
    • exsanguination (intrathoracic bleed [chest stick]); or
    • pithing is recommended.

Note: Pithing must not be performed on those animals destined for human consumption.

12.7 Stunning, Bleeding, and Shackling of Red Meat Species

12.7.1 Humane Stunning

  • The stunning effectiveness is only as good as the maintenance of the equipment, the training of staff, and the monitoring of the process.
  • Stunning, stunning equipment and personnel must be monitored on a routine basis.

Plant operators shall have:

  • trained, competent stunning personnel:
    • written training program for stunner operators, including training to recognize signs of return to sensibility and the operation of the stunning device(s) and proper procedure(s) if animals receive an ineffective stun;
  • written handling and stunning protocols for each method of stunning and category of animal slaughtered:
    • the program must include monitoring sensibility daily and the actions to be taken if an ineffective stun occurs;
  • methods of stunning that meet industry standards and regulatory requirements, which are suitable for the class of animals slaughtered;
  • backup stunning devices readily available for immediate use if the primary method of stunning fails;
  • equipment maintained in accordance with manufacturer's recommendations and the written program; and
  • SOPs to ensure animals are not held in restrainers during scheduled breaks and extended breakdowns.
Operators will ensure:
  • all food animals are killed or rendered insensible before bleeding with the exception of ritual slaughter (Refer to 12.7.10 Ritual Slaughter and MIR section 77);
  • animals are immediately and effectively stunned on a consistent basis;
  • animals that are improperly stunned are immediately re-stunned in a humane manner;
  • stunned animals are bled as soon as possible;
  • animals are not stunned when bleeding may be delayed;
  • plant staff assesses the level of sensibility in all animals prior to shackling and sticking;
  • all red meat animals are rendered insensible before being shackled and suspended for slaughter (MIR 78);
  • stunned animals do not regain sensibility before death; and
  • immediate corrective action is taken if there are signs to suggest an animal may regain, or has regained, sensibility.

12.7.2 Stunning Equipment Operator Responsibilities

The stunner operator and their supervisors will ensure that:

  • animals are appropriately restrained for stunning;
  • animals are immediately and effectively stunned on a consistent basis; and
  • repeated failures to stun and/ or ineffective stunning (outside the acceptable objective standards) are investigated.

Corrective action must be taken immediately.

  • The investigation of repeated failures to stun, or failure to meet object standards for effective stunning may include stopping the kill.
  • The investigation of repeated failures to stun and/or failure to meet objective standards for effective stunning will include notifying the supervisor and the CFIA.

12.7.3 Assessing Sensibility (Consciousness)

Operators of establishments will include written training programs to ensure that stunner operators and their supervisors recognize:

  • signs of return to sensibility for the species and type of stunning equipment used;
  • proper procedure(s) to follow, if animals receive an ineffective stun; and
  • once stunned (or ritually slaughtered) animals must be monitored for signs of potential return to sensibility:
    • return to sensibility is not always black and white; it happens by degrees; and
    • assess the whole picture, concentrate on signs controlled by the brainstem when assessing sensibility (the head must be dead).
  • the following signs and combinations of them can indicate an animal that has been stunned or has fully lost consciousness after ritual slaughter. Note that the evaluation of effective versus ineffective stun must be a collative assessment of all these possible signs:
    • no regular breathing:
      • do not confuse with "agonal breathing" (gasping that occurs when the brain is dying).
      • agonal breathing often occurs at the end of the bleed line and is not to be confused with rhythmical breathing.
      • do not shackle an animal that is breathing rhythmically.
    • no natural blinking or eye movements (including nystagmus or tracking of movements):
      • corneal reflex can be a useful test but do not use it as a routine evaluation of stunning , testing this reflex requires close proximity to the animal and is variable in interpretation (e.g. not a reliable indicator for electric stunning).
    • no righting reflex (animals attempting to right themselves will have an arched back, and attempt to raise its head):
      • evaluate in context of other signs of sensibility.
      • do not confuse random movement of the legs or body with sensibility, in almost all cases, leg movements are reflex reactions (not conscious movements).
    • floppy head ("rag doll-like"):
      • loose tongue (note: controlled tongue or lip movement is also a sign of potential return to sensibility).
    • no vocalization (grunting, groaning):
      • for ritually slaughter: the larynx is severed from the trachea, vocalization per se is not possible. However animals that show vocalizing behaviors after the cut (e.g. mouth open, neck extended, tongue rolled) must be stunned.

12.7.4 Mechanical Stunning

There are two types of acceptable mechanical stunning equipment:

  1. Captive bolt stunning devices (pneumatic and cartridge fired)
  2. Firearms
  • The primary objective of mechanical stunning is to interrupt consciousness until the animal can be bled out. Mechanical stunning (captive bolt and firearm) causes bilateral damage to the midbrain and brainstem (control centers for consciousness, respiration and the circulatory system).
  • Mechanical stunning requires proper targeting, in three dimensions.
  • The most effective entry target for an effective mechanical stunning is a midline frontal approach; the projectile should be targeted towards the animal's midbrain, pons and medulla oblongata.
    • Targeting the midbrain from entry points other than midline frontal is not recommended (for example: the side of the head, behind the ear or near the poll at the top or the back of the head). These approaches increase the likelihood that in the brainstem and midbrain will be missed. A projectile can sever the spinal cord without causing unconsciousness. Brain and skull anatomy varies between and among species.
    • See Annex A for specific species targets.

12.7.5 Captive Bolt Stunning

The plant operator's written program for the captive bolt stunning devices must ensure that:

  • device operators are trained and competent to recognize the signs of an effective stun;
  • the design, calibre, charge, bolt length, bolt tip, and bolt velocity are:
    • appropriate for the type of animal, as per the manufacturer's directions and/or specifications;
    • effective for the operator's intended use; and
    • documented in the written program.
  • devices are of a sufficient number to be rotated to prevent overheating, and available as a backup;
  • devices are used, cleaned, and maintained, and stored as per the manufacturer's recommendations and as required
  • charge cartridges are stored in a clean dry area and have not aged excessively;
  • bolt velocity is checked by a velocity checker, or similar means as stated in the manufacturer's directions;
  • bolt(s) retract completely, as designed, after each use; and
  • devices are positioned against the front of the animal's head, using proper landmarks
  • as described in Annex A, Species-Specific Stunning Guidelines – Red Meat Species:
    • animals are effectively stunned and insensible with one shot; and
    • a backup stunning device is available.

12.7.6 Firearm Stunning

Firearm stunning poses an increased OSH risk to plant and CFIA staff.

Firearm stunning is used only when the:

  • establishment has demonstrated that no other means of stunning is practical;
  • there is a written firearm stunning program, including an OSH protocol;
  • caliber and range are suitable for the species and class of animal;
  • the ammunition selected for the species and body type to be slaughtered provides effective stunning while minimizing over-penetration or the effects of misdirected bullets, slugs or ricochet;
  • ammunition is stored in a clean dry area and has not aged excessively;
  • targeting method is as shown in Annex A: Species-Specific Stunning Guidelines – Red Meat Species; and
  • the firearm is cleaned and maintained and stored to ensure it functions effectively.

There must be:

  • a bullet proof barrier between the stunning area and the kill floor to protect people from the effects of misdirected bullets, slugs, or ricochet;
  • remote viewing to allow the CFIA to monitor stun efficacy and bleed-rail insensibility with protection from the effects of misdirected bullets, slugs, or ricochet;
  • a visible warning system to indicate when firearms are being discharged; and
  • back-up stunning equipment, readily available.

The establishment's protocols and written program must include, but are not limited to:

  • written documentation that the operation device complies with the federal Firearms Act and all applicable provincial and local legislation;
  • a complete list of employees who are trained in firearm safety and designated as competent to use the firearm where necessary; and
  • routine monitoring and documentation of firearm stunning and related OSH issues by plant management, including timely and effective corrective action.

12.7.7 Electrical Stunning

Electrical stunning includes hand-held and automated electrical stunning devices.

The plant operator's written program must ensure that/include:

  • the stunning device is used, as per the manufacturer's specifications;
  • the operator's recommended equipment settings for each size of animal that is stunned including specification of:
    • the voltage;
    • amperage;
    • the current frequency; and
    • the time of stun
  • the electrical stunning device is maintained and cleaned, as stated in the plant operator's written program and the manufacturer's specifications. In cases where the manufacturer's recommendations are not used, documentation to explain the rationale for the variance must be developed and maintained;
  • the voltage and amperage are monitored and recorded throughout the shift;
  • the length of time of the current is applied is measured;
  • the electrical stunning device is not used as a handling aid or restraint and does not deliver any shock before stunning occurs;
  • for head only stunning, electrodes must be positioned to span the brain;
  • for head-to-body stunning, the electrodes must span the brain and heart simultaneously, or span the brain and immediately thereafter the heart;
  • the electrode(s) must not be positioned on the animal's neck;
  • for head only electric stunning, the stun-to-stick interval should not exceed 15 seconds;
  • a backup stunning device must be available;
  • causing immobilization without loss of consciousness is not permitted;
  • An animal that is not moving is not necessarily insensible;
  • hot wanding is not permitted, if this occurs if hogs receive a cardiac shock before they receive a head stun, preshocked animals will vocalize (sign of suffering); and
  • incidents of preshock or electroimmobilization must be monitored and prevented by the operator's Written Animal Welfare Program.

For more detail, refer to Annex A Species-Specific Stunning Guidelines – Red Meat Species.

12.7.8 Gas And Gas Mixtures (Controlled Atmosphere Stunning)

Increasing capacity poses challenges in plants that stun with gas. The animal welfare plan must address humane stunning and future increases in production. Overcrowding in the stunning chamber and increased line speed reduce the effectiveness of gas stunning operation, as can changing the concentration of the gas mixture or changes in the air flow of the stunning area.

Gas or gas mixtures (controlled atmosphere stunning [CAS]) may be used to stun food animals, if the following design and implementation (Written Animal Welfare Program) requirements are met:

Design

The pre-stun facilities in lairage and post-stun facilities are specifically designed:

  • for gas stunning and for the size and species of animal;
  • to avoid injury or unnecessary stress;
  • to continuously measure and display the gas concentration at induction and at the point of maximum gas concentration;
  • the time of exposure must also be displayed or indicated;
  • so animals can be visually monitored during the induction phase;
  • so animals can be accessed if the conveyance system fails, taking into account personnel safety;
  • so the adjacent work area is equipped with gas-measuring devices that continuously measure and display the gas concentrations;
  • to provide a visible and audible warning to staff, if the gases used in stunning exceed the maximum allowed in the surrounding work area; and
  • so the concentration of gases in the work area do not exceed those permitted under provincial and/or federal OSH requirements.
Implementation

The plant operator must have written protocols for:

  • animal handling and gas stunning (reviewed and accepted by the VIC in consultation with the RVO

The program will ensure:

  • animal handling during pre-stun must minimize stress;
  • the gas concentrations and time of exposure minimize the stress of induction of anesthesia;
  • gas mixtures and methods used are those proven to be effective and humane;
  • DOA are removed prior to stunning;
  • animals do not pile, stand or fall on top of each other during the stunning process;
  • the behaviour of animals during the induction of insensibility is monitored, evaluated, and recorded;
  • exposure time and gas concentration are sufficient to ensure animals do not regain sensibility before death by bleeding;
  • there is sufficient line space to shackle and bleed stunned animals during line stoppages;
  • procedures are established to ensure humane stunning occurs during and as a result of line stoppages;
  • immediate corrective action are taken when stunning and animal welfare deviations occur; and
  • there is back up stunning equipment available at all times.

For additional information, please refer to Annex A: Species-Specific Stunning Guidelines – Red Meat Species.

12.7.9 Shackling And Bleeding Animals On The Rail

(For all red meat species and all types of stunning)

The plant operator's written program must ensure that:

  • animal welfare is monitored and actions are taken when in non-compliance;
  • no red meat food animal is hoisted or shackled prior to being rendered insensible;
  • stunned animals are bled out as soon as possible and remain insensible until death (e.g., do not weigh animals in between stun and stick);
  • the time between effective stun and effective stick is kept to a minimum;
  • animals are bled by incising a carotid artery and jugular vein, or the vessels from which they arise (chest sticking):
    • chest sticking is strongly recommended.
  • the blood flow from sticking is adequate to prevent occlusion during bleed out;
  • staff members are able to observe, inspect, and access the animals for emergency re-stunning if required;
  • during bleed out, if any animal returns to sensibility, the stun and slaughter of all other animals stop, and the situation is corrected immediately (no further stunning until the root cause is identified and corrective action is implemented); and
  • no scalding (hogs) or dressing procedure is performed on any animal until bleeding is complete and the animal is dead.

Starting the dressing process, or sticking an animal, when the animal shows signs of return to sensibility shall not be tolerated.

12.7.10 Ritual Slaughter

The operator's choice to use ritual slaughter carries with it some increased animal welfare risk. Without stunning, the loss of consciousness is not immediate and is more heavily impacted by individual variations in animal temperament, pre-slaughter handling, skill of slaughtermen and equipment than in situations where stunning is used.

12.7.10.1 Competence, Training, and Written Program (ritual slaughter)

Plant operators must meet the following requirements to process animals by ritual slaughter:

  • A written ritual slaughter protocol that addresses animal handling, restraint, slaughter and welfare monitoring of each species and class of food animal slaughtered. The program and its effectiveness must:
    • be reviewed and accepted by the CFIA VIC, in consultation with the Regional Veterinary Officer (RVO);
    • be reviewed and modified as needed by the operator;
    • include monitoring, records, deviations, corrective action, preventative measures, and follow-up (verification); and
    • include training/ competence (MIR 80):
      • including the person performing the ritual slaughter;
      • including employees who handle animals, monitor sensibility and effectiveness of ritual slaughter, stun, shackle, and asses animals on the bleed line; and
      • including when and how to take corrective action.
    • include equipment design and maintenance.
12.7.10.2 Restraint and Cutting for Ritual Slaughter

Each animal must be individually restrained.

Restraint must be appropriate for the species and size of the animal.

The restraint system must have/allow:

  • secure footing;
  • animals entering without coercion;
  • animals are held forward by a pusher or a similar restraining device;
  • animal to fit comfortably (e.g. no lifting with extreme neck extension);
  • forehead bracket and chin lift, or similar device, which:
    • applies only moderate pressure;
    • avoids excessive dorsal neck bend; and
    • has no nose tongs.
  • smooth, quiet operation (no jerky movements, hissing or loud noises);
  • design to allow:
    • effective slaughter;
    • animals to be monitored for rapid loss of sensibility; and
    • safe and rapid stunning.
Upright Restraint for Ritual Slaughter
  • Effective and humane upright restraint systems are available for all ruminants (e.g. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) pen for cattle).
  • Based on current scientific evidence, the available technology for inverting animals for ritual slaughter cause stress, aspiration of rumen fluids, avoidable distress and pain. This is prohibited by MIR 62(1).
  • Operators wishing to use alternate methods must validate that the system they plan to use will be compliant with MIR 62 (1).
12.7.10.3 Ritual Slaughter Process
  • Head only reversible stunning, before ritual slaughter or post-cut stunning is encouraged whenever possible.
  • Pre-slaughter handling requirements are the same as for all food animals. Calm and quiet handling is especially important for humane ritual slaughter, agitated animals bleed out slowly.
  • Compliance with facility design, maintenance and use, pre-slaughter handling requirements and training are the same as for all food animals.
  • A trained competent individual must carry out the slaughter with well-maintained equipment (including restraint equipment and knives).
  • The animal must remain calm during slaughter.
  • Slaughter must be performed by a cut that is continuous and fluid, may be a continuous, fluid back and forth motion for large ruminants, as long as the knife is never lifted off the of the animal and not reintroduced into the cut:
    • The knife must be very sharp for every animal, free of nicks and imperfections and be at least double the width of the animal's neck
    • best practice guideline: cut done within 10 seconds of restraining the head; and
    • a second cut is not acceptable until the animal is insensible.
  • Restraint (butt pusher and neck extension) must be adjustable.
  • Nothing must obstruct blood flow. including:
    • the closing of the cut edges of the neck;
    • contact of the neck cut with the restraint device;
    • ballooning (constrictions of the cut ends of the carotids); and
    • overextension of the neck/ excessive restraint in the box.
  • Blood loss must be rapid with a rapid loss of sensibility.
  • No procedures that could cause pain or distress (including palpation, second cuts, tissue collection) can be done until the animal is dead (MIR 62.1).
  • The loss of sensibility and animal welfare must be monitored for every animal during handling and cutting, bleeding, and release from restraint, as well as during shackling and hoisting.
Guidance: Time to Collapse After Ritual Slaughter
  • Ritual slaughter does not result in instantaneous unconsciousness:
    • the majority of animals roll their eyes and collapse and within 20 seconds; and
    • if animals do not collapse after 30 seconds there is a high probability that something has gone wrong.
  • The operator's welfare program must ensure that all animals are monitored after cut and are stunned if they:
    • exhibit symptoms of suffering, such as opening their mouths and curling their tongue as if they were vocalizing pain (bellowing, bleating); or
    • do not collapse within 30 seconds.
Checking Ritual Neck Cuts
  • Animals must be insensible before a hand or any object is placed in the wound (compliance with MIR 62.1).
Return to Sensibility on the Bleed Line - Ritual Slaughter
  • Suspending an animal must not occur until the animal has lost sensibility (MIR 78).
  • Ritual slaughter takes time; bleed out takes time, ensuring humane slaughter takes time.
  • There is zero tolerance for conscious animals on the slaughter line, regardless of the choice of slaughter technique.
  • The operator's Written Animal Welfare program will provide methods to ensure that:
    • animals are monitored on the slaughter line; and
    • immediate corrective action is taken if animals show signs of sensibility or potential return to sensibility (including: voluntary blinking, righting reflex, rhythmic breathing, physical behaviours consistent with attempts to vocalize) - see section 12.7.3.
  • No dressing procedures shall occur on an animal that shows signs of potential return to sensibility.

12.8 Unacceptable Acts In Red Meat Slaughter

Acts that are not tolerated include, but are not limited to:

  • dragging or moving sensible (conscious) non-ambulatory or compromised animals;
  • intentionally prodding an animal in a sensitive area (anus, genitalia, mammary glands, face) (MIR 62 [2]);
  • repeated prodding of the same animal, regardless of the cause;
  • intentional hitting or beating an animal with any implement that could cause injury;
  • violent acts to move animals, such as breaking tails or grasping eyes;
  • deliberately slamming gates on animals;
  • deliberately stunning an animal and allowing it to recover;
  • deliberate, multiple applications of a stunner that is obviously malfunctioning;
  • hoisting, shackling, before the animal has been rendered insensible;
  • failing to take immediate corrective action if an animal returns to sensibility on the line (MIR 79);
  • dressing procedures commenced on an animal with any sign of sensibility or is not dead;
  • throwing or dropping of conscious animals;
  • lifting or dragging animals by body parts;
  • wilful misuse of powered equipment or causing injury due to improper maintenance; and
  • de-tusking boars other than by an approved means.

12.9 Priorities During Unscheduled Stoppages in Production

Unforeseen stoppages in production do occur.

A written plan must be developed and maintained for unscheduled stoppages. This plan must consider the types and condition of animals on the premises, as well as the types of holding, feeding, and watering facilities that are available.

The contingency plan should address:

  • alternate locations where animals can be unloaded, slaughtered or temporarily housed (consider: distance, weather conditions, total transport time, suitability/availability of transport vehicles and biosecurity); and
  • timely unloading of imported animals where temporary housing in other locations is not an option (those animals designated for immediate slaughter, transported in sealed vehicles).

Part C: Poultry and Rabbit Species

12.10 Poultry Welfare

The time in transport for poultry begins when the first animal is loaded into a crate, module or container and ends when the last animal is unloaded from the crate, module or container at the slaughter establishment.

Humane Handling Responsibilities of the Slaughter Establishment Operator:

Communication - Guidelines:

  • Communicate expectations to producers, catchers, and transporters.
  • Define humane transport and welfare standards for the "supplier," as with any incoming product (receiving of live animals):
    • Collect letters of guarantee that the parties understand their responsibilities under the HAR section XII.
    • Provide guidelines for feed withdrawal, special loading protocols, evaluation of fitness for transport, predicted time to load, stocking density, and trailer tarping /vent configuration based on Producer information, predicted weather, travel distance, and other variables.
    • Provide catchers and transporters with:
      • crates (if owned by operator) that are structurally sound and visibly clean;
      • crate dimensions;
      • assistance in determining stocking density;
      • expected time to load;
      • fitness-for-transport criteria;
      • recommendations to minimize bird stress during loading;
      • updates, if plans change; and
      • emergency contact numbers.
  • Schedule catching, loading, and delivery to minimize bird stress.

Develop and implement Written Animal Welfare Program to ensure that:

  • problems are reported, documented, and investigated;
  • corrective action is taken;
  • where possible, similar problems are prevented in the future; and
  • ensure transport records are retained for one year.

Training:

  • Provide and document humane handling training to employees who work with live animals.

Train employees to know:

  • how and when to monitor for the signs of normal behaviour and indicators of stress and illness in each species;
  • who to notify if animal welfare problems or unexpected events were to occur;
  • what to do with animals compromised during transport;
  • handling procedures for unloading, including special procedures for stressed animals;
  • how to properly handle crates and cages that contain the live animals;
  • how to mark and report damaged crates;
  • how to verify that crates and transport vehicles are visibly clean before they leave the establishment
  • emergency contact numbers;
  • how and when to notify CFIA veterinarians (e.g., if there are high Dead-On-Arrival [DOA]); and
  • contingency plans for predictable events (e.g., storms, vehicle accident (including protocols at the plant for dealing with birds injured in traffic accidents in timely manner, equipment breakdown).

Equipment:

  • Ensure facility design and maintenance do not cause injury or undue stress to birds.
  • Ensure design and equipment operation promote humane, effective and consistent unloading, handling, inspection and housing all species that are slaughtered.
  • Ensure design, maintenance and operation of the facility and equipment meet MIR, HAR and OSH requirements.

Transfer of care and control:

  • The establishment employee will examine each load at delivery.
    • Document the condition of the load and the time of transfer of care and control from the transporter.

12.11 Facility Design / Equipment and Animal Welfare

For the effective implementation of any animal welfare control plan and performance requirements, the slaughter facility and premises should be designed with the following elements as guidelines:

12.11.1 Lairage Design

Lairage includes: live storage shed, live receiving, yard, and place(s) where trucks are parked, pending unloading.

Lairage facilities must be designed, constructed, maintained and operated to:

  • be suitable for the size and species of birds that are slaughtered, taking into account the safety and well-being of the birds;
  • minimize noise (e.g. yelling, loud equipment); and
  • provide protection from the elements.

The lairage facilities must have:

  • sufficient holding capacity to ensure that birds can be unloaded in a timely fashion and are not exposed to the elements (including lack of ventilation on a stationary transport vehicle):
    • capacity for approximately half number of birds in a normal shift; and
    • alternately, the operator must write and implement an effective contingency plan which ensures that animal welfare is protected) in the event that slaughter is delayed, slowed or stopped.
  • effective ventilation at all levels in a crate or module stack regardless of season or weather:
    • the desired outcome is prevention of heat stress, cold stress and death:
      • design to minimize drafts; and
      • design to address the needs of animals in the centre as well as those on near the edge;
  • facilities for waste disposal;
  • lighting:
    • to allow examination and inspection of the birds during unloading and handling, and for ante mortem inspection; and
    • low light or blue-light is recommended to keep birds calm during shackling.
  • facilities for the euthanasia of injured and moribund birds.
Facility Requirements for Ante mortem Inspection
  • the design requirements and equipment must be suitable for each species size, sex and behavior of the animal that is slaughtered; and
  • must allow ante mortem inspection consistent with MIR.

12.11.2 Equipment for Poultry Lairage, Handling, Stunning and Slaughter Performance Requirements as Part of the Control Programs

  • Live area equipment includes forklift(s), crates, drawers and modules, conveyors (for crates, drawers, modules and live birds), drawer unloaders, module dumpers, carousals, shackles, live-bird hanging line, breast bar, fencing for escaped birds, dead-bird container(s), lighting, stands, live bird sensors, as well as crate and module washing equipment.
  • Equipment must be designed, cleaned and maintained to ensure the humane handling and slaughter of the animals.
  • Live hang lines will be designed to prevent sudden corners, changes in elevation, movements or obstructions that startle the birds or cause flapping.
  • Animal handling equipment, including automated dumpers and conveyers and stunning equipment must not be operated in a manner that cause avoidable pain or distress (MIR 62.1 and 80).
  • The dumping, shackling, stunning, slaughter and bleed area must be designed so that birds can be monitored.

12.11.3 Cleaning and Maintenance of Equipment

  • The operator's Written Animal Welfare Program will provide methods to ensure that equipment used for shackling, stunning, and bleeding of poultry, including any backup equipment is cleaned and maintained at regular intervals according to manufactures instructions.
  • In situations where the operational conditions do not meet the equipment manufacture's recommendations, documentation of the rationale for the variance must be developed and maintained by the operator. The cleaning and maintenance program must be monitored on a regular basis and must be updated when equipment is replaced, modified or as required.
  • Back up stunning equipment must also be cleaned and maintained.

12.12 Care and Handling of Birds in Lairage

  • The operator's Written Animal Welfare Program will include training of people who work with live animals including training and supervision staff, monitoring, verification, and deviation procedures.
  • The following principles apply to the care and handling of birds in a federal establishment:
    • procedures must be appropriate to the species and category of food animal;
    • animals must be monitored and handled in a way to prevent avoidable distress and avoidable pain;
    • equipment (e.g. dumper, conveyer belts, carrousel) does not cause injury due to misuse, design or improper maintenance;
    • unnecessary noise must be minimized; and
    • ventilation and protection from the elements and from heat or cold stress is provided.

12.12.1 Handling During Receiving and Unloading

The operator's Written Animal Welfare Program will provide methods to ensure that:

  • personnel are trained toknow:
    • how to recognize normal behaviours and behaviours of concern as well as conditions that indicate stress and illness in loads of birds;
    • who to notify if animal welfare problems or unexpected events were to occur;
    • what to do with animals compromised during transport;
    • handling procedures for unloading, including special procedures for stressed animals;
    • how to mark and report damaged crates;
    • how to verify that crates and transport vehicles are visibly clean before they leave the establishment
    • emergency contact numbers;
    • how and when to notify CFIA veterinarians (e.g., if there are high DOAs); and
    • contingency plans for predictable events (e.g., storms, vehicle accident (including protocols at the plant for dealing with birds injured in traffic accidents in timely manner, equipment breakdown).
  • animals are evaluated for distress as soon as possible after unloading the trailer and throughout the time in lairage;
  • ante mortem inspection is performed as per MOP Chapter 19 requirements;
  • modules and crates are picked up, moved, handled, and set down with care to prevent stress or injury to the birds they contain; and
  • crates of animals are not thrown, dropped, knocked over, or sent down a slide with a sudden stop at the bottom.

12.12.2 Handling in Lairage

The operator's Written Animal Welfare Policy will provide methods to ensure that loads of birds are:

  • assessed for injury, abnormalities, and disease as soon as possible following arrival at the establishment;
  • monitored for signs of stress on an ongoing basis while in lairage and corrective action is taken and preventative measures are implemented as required;
  • not held in lairage for >24 hours without water or feed (written contingency plan) while still in crates, taking into account the maximum times permitted for transportation (since the birds in crates are still considered to be in transport) under the HAR;
  • slaughtered as soon as possible after delivery, especially spent hens which should be slaughtered upon arrival with minimal waiting time in lairage because of their fragile nature; and
  • protected from adverse weather conditions and provided with ventilation:
    • Poultry are subject to heat stress can be cooled by using water misting, fans, or by another suitable means. However, care shall be taken to ensure animals are not chilled during periods of cooler temperature.

Personnel working in lairage have training to handle the birds in their care; the operator's Written Animal Welfare Program will provide methods to ensure that:

  • stressed or compromised loads take precedence in the slaughter schedule;
  • birds in lairage that escaped during unloading and shackling are caught, handled, and shackled as soon as possible:
    • this activity must be monitored, according to the operator's written program, on an ongoing basis.
  • crates are emptied before entering the crate washer; and
  • birds do not go through the crate washer; it is unacceptable for live birds to go through the crate washer:
    • if this deviation occurs, immediate corrective actions and preventive measures must take place; the VIC will be informed of any and all such incidents.

12.12.3 Handling Injured in Transport and DOA Birds

Birds received at the establishment with injuries (fractures, deep wounds etc.) that are likely to be a source of pain and suffering and moribund birds must be humanely euthanized without delay.

Birds that died for any reason, other than slaughter, must be counted and recorded as DOA, and then are conveyed to the inedible products area of the establishment.

  • Live birds must never be placed in a DOA bin.
  • The operator's Written Animal Welfare Program will provide methods to:
    • ensure that dead birds are removed from shipping crates, modules, and the carousel, and placed in an appropriate storage container or receptacle for disposal;
    • include a method of monitoring and recording the number of dead birds on a load;
    • make provisions for monitoring the distribution of dead birds within a load if requested;
    • address how escaped birds will be contained, captured, and processed; and
    • describe corrective actions to be taken in instances of non-compliance.
  • When transport death losses are investigated it is important to evaluate which specific areas of a load are affected in order to determine what preventive action can be taken.

12.12.4 Handling During Live Hanging or Shackling (Poultry)

Employees who handle live animals will be trained and supervised.

Equipment will be maintained and used in a manner to ensure that birds are not injured or damaged (fractured wings, limbs, lacerations).

Abusive actions or mishandling of animals must not be tolerated. This must be clearly stated in the written animal welfare program and the training material.

The operator is responsible for providing training for and supervision of personnel who work with live birds. The training will include:

  • how to remove animals from crates;
  • how to handle animals in a humane manner:
    • different sizes and species of birds have specific handling requirements based on their behaviour and anatomy;
  • how and when to monitor birds for signs of stress;
  • how to evaluate if birds are properly stunned by the equipment; and
  • actions to take if there are deviations.

The following principles apply to the handling and care of birds that are hung:

  • Birds must be shackled by two legs.
    • Birds shackled by one leg are stressed, are often inadequately stunned, and can have wings or other body parts cut by the automatic knife.
    • Shackles must be empty prior to hanging birds (previously hung birds legs have been removed) so that the bird can be hung and stunned effectively.
  • Birds with obviously broken and/or dislocated legs must be humanely euthanized.
  • Birds must not be allowed to pile up on the conveyor or the carousel.
  • Birds must not be left alive in shackles during regular breaks or extended breakdowns.

12.13 Euthanizing Birds in the Lairage

Injured, very small, moribund and escaped birds that are not slated for processing must be humanely euthanized, using a method approved by the VIC.

Euthanasia will be performed by trained competent employees.

The dead birds must be transported to the inedible area for disposal.

12.14 Stunning and Bleeding of Poultry – General Requirements

The plant operator's Written Animal Welfare program must include written handling and stunning protocols for each method of stunning and category of food animals and/or poultry slaughtered at the establishment.

The plant operator must use methods of stunning or killing that meet industry standards and must abide by regulatory requirements that are suitable for poultry.

These include:

  1. Electrical stunning
  2. Gas or gas mixture (Controlled Atmospheric Stunning or CAS)
  3. Captive bolt (specifically designed for poultry)
  • The Written Animal Welfare Program must ensure that the stunning/bleeding equipment is in good working order and regularly monitored.
  • Stunning equipment must be tested to ensure that it is working prior to initiating daily slaughter operations (do not use live animals to test).
  • A backup stunning method or a plan must be available for immediate use, if the primary stunning method fails.
  • All food animals are properly stunned or rendered insensible before bleeding. (except in the case of Ritual Slaughter of Poultry)
  • Stunned animals must not regain sensibility before death by exsanguination (MIR 78).
  • Birds that are improperly stunned will undergo immediate re-stunning and/or killing by trained, competent backup personnel.
    • Killing can be by rapid decapitation, or
    • Complete severance of both carotid arteries and both jugular veins, with a single knife stroke (the head can remain on). When using this method as a deviation procedure, it must be verified by the operator to be as effective in its outcome as decapitation at the given operational line speed.
  • If there is a pattern of improper stun (guideline: over 2%) corrective action must we taken, in the absence of effective corrective action the process should be stopped so that corrective actions can be taken prior to starting the line again.
  • The efficacy of stun must be evaluated by outcome (the absence of signs of sensibility).

The plant operator's Written Animal Welfare Program must include:

  • assessment of sensibility on a regular basis and the actions to be taken if ineffective stunning occurs;
  • records of all incidents of inadequate stunning/slaughter including description of corrective actions and preventative measures taken; and
  • protocols to notify the CFIA of welfare deviations.

12.14.1 Electrical Stunning of Poultry (Water Bath)

  • Voltmeters and ammeters must be installed and clearly visible to staff operating the electrical water bath stunner.
  • Systems that deploy a two-step or phase method of stunning, such as AC and DC must have devices that clearly display the values for the current supplied to both systems.
  • Live birds must not be used to test the effectiveness of a stunner.
  • The operator's animal welfare program related to electric stunning must address:
    • maintenance of the stunner;
    • methods used to determine the electrical settings for each lot and type of birds processed, including a means to validate effective stunning parameters;
    • the operator's recommended equipment settings for each size of bird that is stunned including specification of:
      • the frequency of current (AC/DC);
      • the time of stun (taking into account the line speed and length of the stunner);
      • the frequency and current used in a water bath stunner determines whether the heart or the brain (or both) are affected, whether the animal loses consciousness, how long the animal will remain unconscious after stun, and meat quality; and
      • in general the higher the frequency the more likely an animal will return to sensibility;
    • how and when the equipment is to be adjusted;
    • manufacturers recommended procedures such as enhancing the salinity of water (to improve electrical conductivity) are followed; and
    • deviation procedures, including the protocol for staff for stopping the line in the stunning and cutting areas in the event of a problem or communicating problems so that corrective actions can be immediately taken.

The plant operator's written Animal Welfare program must address:

  • stunning and automated neck-cutting equipment (and backup equipment) must be checked by trained personnel each time the line starts up, at the start of each shift and at the beginning of a new lot of birds to ensure stunning and slaughter are effective and humane;
  • the monitoring of the manufacturer’s recommendations for maintaining salinity and adjustments as necessary to ensure effective operation;
  • birds must be presented to the stunner in a manner that allows effective stun;
  • undersized birds cannot be hung, unless they can be effectively stunned by the water bath with the proper adjustments of the equipment;
  • shackles must be empty prior to hanging birds (previously hung bird's legs have been removed) so the bird can be hung and stunned effectively;
  • pre-stun shock must be monitored and prevented since it is painful for the birds and the plant operator must take steps to prevent it, including the determination of the root cause; and
  • prestun shock occurs when any part of a bird receives an electric shock before it enters the waterbath or in other cases before it is effectively stunned. Examples of these other cases include, the brine level being too low or the bird being too small to contact the water properly; the bird making repeated contact with it but is not properly stunned, etc.
Electric Stunning of Poultry (Head Only)

Electrical stunning includes hand-held and automated electrical stunning devices.

The plant operator's written program must ensure that/include:

  • the stunning device is used, as per the manufacturer's specifications;
  • the operator's recommended equipment settings for each size of animal that is stunned including specification of:
    • the voltage;
    • amperage;
    • the current frequency; and
    • the time of stun.
  • a means/protocol to validate effective stunning parameters
  • the electrical stunning device is maintained and cleaned, as stated in the plant operator's written program and the manufacturer's specifications. In cases where the manufacturer's recommendations are not used, documentation to explain the rationale for the variance must be developed and maintained;
  • the voltage and amperage are monitored and recorded throughout the shift;
  • the length of time of the current is applied is measured;
  • the electrical stunning device is not used as a handling aid to move conscious birds in to place or for restraint;
  • the device does not deliver any shock before stunning occurs;
  • for head only stunning electrodes must be positioned to span the brain;
  • the electrode(s) causing immobilization without loss of consciousness is not permitted;
  • an animal that is not moving is not necessarily insensible;
  • the electrode(s) must not be positioned on the bird's neck;
  • for head only electric stunning, the stun-to-stick interval should not exceed 15 seconds; and
  • a backup stunning device must be available.

12.14.2 Controlled Atmosphere Stunning of Poultry

Gas can be highly effective and has the advantage that the birds are minimally handled and not shackled while fully conscious. However gas stunning is not instantaneous. Gas stunning must be regularly monitored. Poultry can regain sensibility after they have been stunned with a gas at variable time periods, which can be quite rapid, depending on the gas concentration level and exposure time. Regaining of sensibility can even occur when the process is a stun to kill (birds are intended to be dead after the gas stunning process). Therefore, even if an irreversible gas stunning system is used, the birds must be monitored closely for recovery, and should be bled as soon as possible after exiting the stunning system.

Gas or gas mixtures (Controlled Atmosphere Stunning (CAS)) may be used to stun poultry provided the following requirements are met:

  • The establishment operator has a written Animal Welfare Control Program that includes:
    • animal handling and gas stunning protocol (the program and its effectiveness be reviewed and accepted by the CFIA VIC, in consultation with the RVO and
    • Monitoring, verification and deviation procedures to ensure birds are effectively stunned and do not return to sensibility before death by bleeding.
  • Every plant using gas stunning must have a written program that is linked to or is part of the establishment FSEP to identify DOAs and how identified DOAs are removed. This program must include the monitoring, verification and deviation procedures used to ensure the DOAs do not enter the food chain.
  • Operators must develop and validate protocols to ensure that DOA animals can be consistently differentiated from stunned animals at all times of the year, lengths of time dead, causes of death and location in the trailer/module.
  • The chamber where birds are exposed to the gas and the equipment used to convey them through the system are designed and maintained to avoid injury and unnecessary stress.
  • There is a mechanism to prevent the entry of birds into the gas chamber, if the concentrations of gases in the chamber are outside the required parameters.
  • The gas chamber is equipped to measure and display gas concentration at induction and at the point of maximum gas concentration.
  • The time of exposure is displayed or indicated.
  • The gas chamber is equipped to give a clearly visible and audible warning if the concentration of gases in the chamber is outside the required parameters.
  • The gas chamber is designed so birds can be visually monitored during the induction phase, throughout the stunning phase and accessed if the conveyance system fails.
  • The adjoining work area is equipped with gas-measuring devices that continuously measure and display the gas concentrations:
    • the system is designed to give a clearly visible and audible warning to staff, if the gases used in stunning were to exceed the maximum allowed in the surrounding work area; and
    • the concentration of gases (used in stunning), accumulating in the work area, do not exceed those permitted under provincial and/or federal OSH requirements.

The following principles apply to humane handling for gas stunning:

  • animal handling during pre-stun must minimize stress;
  • the gas concentrations and time of exposure should minimize the stress of induction of anesthesia;
  • the gas mixtures and methods used are proven to be effective and humane;
  • animals should not pile, stand or fall on top of each other during the stunning process;
  • the behaviour of birds during the induction of insensibility must be monitored, evaluated, and recorded;
  • exposure time and gas concentration must be sufficient to ensure animals do not regain sensibility before death by bleeding;
  • immediate corrective action must be taken when stunning and animal welfare deviations occur; and
  • there must be an emergency back-up plan in the event of gas stunning equipment or system failure. This emergency plan must be well designed to ensure the humane treatment of the birds at all times. It must also include the proper use of well-maintained back-up stunning equipment and the prevention of prolonged periods of time that the birds are without food or water.
Implementation
  • The operator's written Animal Welfare Control Program must include:
    • maintenance of the stunner;
    • methods used to determine the gas concentrations;
    • exposure times for the species, the size(s) of birds processed; and
    • deviation procedures, as needed.
  • Persons involved in gas killing must be properly instructed and trained and supervised.
  • Animal handling during pre-stun must minimize stress, as per the written protocol.
  • The only gas mixtures and methods to be used are those proven to be effective and humane and those that are included in the plant operator's or establishment's Animal Welfare Control Program.
  • The gas concentrations used and the time of exposure must minimize the stress of the animal during the induction of anesthesia and loss of sensibility and throughout the stunning process, as per an approved written program.
  • Bird density in the chamber must prevent animals from standing or falling on top of each other during the stunning process
  • The behaviour of animals during the induction of insensibility must be able to be monitored and evaluated and recorded.
  • Exposure time and the gas concentration must be sufficient to ensure that animals do not regain sensibility before death, due to cardiac arrest or bleeding.
  • Birds must be monitored for effective humane stunning during their travel through the gas chamber/system. Immediate corrective actions must be taken if there are problems with stunning
  • The plant must have a program in place to identify birds that are conscious upon exit from the gas stunning system and to ensure the birds are immediately restunned or killed.
  • Immediate corrective action must be taken when deviations occur.

12.14.3 Captive Bolt Stunning of Poultry

This method of stunning:

  • can be used as the primary method of stunning birds or rabbits in low volume establishments;
  • must use equipment appropriate for the species; and
  • must be performed by trained personnel as per the plant operator's animal welfare program.

12.14.4 Decapitation of Poultry

Decapitation of birds:

  • can be used to kill birds, as a back-up process for birds that have not been properly rendered insensible by another method of stunning, such as an electrical stunner; and
  • must be performed by trained personnel, using well maintained equipment (sharp knives) as per the plant establishment's animal welfare program.
  • Decapitation may be used as a means of slaughter provided the birds are effectively stunned first.

12.14.5 Neck Cutting and Bleeding

(For all methods of stunning)

The operator must have a written program in place for the slaughter and bleeding of birds.

Personnel who carry out the slaughter of all food animals shall be competent, trained, and supervised.

Employees shall be regularly assessed and records maintained of their performance

The carotid arteries and jugular veins of birds should be severed. The fastest method of exsanguination is to include both carotids and both jugular veins during the cutting/bleeding process. Blood loss and death must be rapid.

Automated neck cutting requires:

  • operation that ensures birds do not pile up at the entry to the guide bars; and
  • monitoring the cut to ensure that it is properly placed (below the mandible).

Birds should be bled within 15 seconds of electric stunning.

Birds must bleed for at least 90 seconds:

  • must be monitored on the bleed rail to ensure that they do not return to consciousness;
  • and must be dead (not showing signs of potential for return to sensibility) before they enter the scald tank.
Uncut red birds

There is zero tolerance for birds missing the automatic knife and being missed by the backup cutter; these animals have the potential to enter the scald tank alive and fully conscious (uncut red birds).

  • An uncut red bird represents a failure of the slaughter process.
  • The cause of the failure must be immediately investigated by the operator.
  • The operator must take immediate effective corrective actions to prevent similar failures.
  • All incidents and related corrective actions must be documented.

The CFIA VIC will be notified each time such an event occurs.

Note: Uncut red birds are different from inadequately bled carcasses

Inadequately bled birds

Inadequately bled birds differ from uncut red birds, they have a neck cut, but for a variety of reasons, the bleedout is not effective.

The presence of these mild to brick-red carcasses at the preselection station may be an indication of improper sticking.

When carcasses have been neck-cut but have not bled out properly (inadequately bled birds), the company must evaluate the stunning and killing procedures.

The operator must have a program in place that includes a reasonable limit of cut- but inadequately-bled birds (mild to brick red carcasses found at preselection, or after the scald tank and prior to the head pulling mechanism).

There must be a written procedure in place to address this situation.

When the limit set by the operator is exceeded the operator shall evaluate the stunning and killing procedures and take immediate corrective actions to correct the inadequate bleeding.

Operators will notify the VIC when excessive numbers of inadequately bled birds occur.

12.14.6 Backup Neck Cutting/Bleeding of Poultry (For all methods of stunning)

The operator's Written Welfare Program will address the backup neck cutting and bleeding operation. The plan will:

  • ensure that a person is present and competent by reason of training and physical condition and adequate supervision to:
    • assess and monitor the sensibility of birds;
    • confirm animals are immediately and effectively stunned on a consistent basis;
    • determine whether the neck cutting and bleeding by the automated neck cutter is consistently effective:
      • ensure that the cut is being made at the proper location (below the mandible)
    • take corrective action immediately, including stopping the kill and notifying the supervisor, if there are deviations, including signs of animals regaining sensibility; and
    • cut the necks of birds that were missed by the automatic knife:
      • backup cutting and bleeding is done by decapitation or by severing both carotid arteries and jugular veins with a single knife stroke (the head can remain on) The line speed may have to be slowed down to be able to sever the four blood vessels with a single stroke adequately.
  • ensure the employee must have a means to immediately notify the supervisor or stop the line if stunning or bleeding is inadequate.

12.14.7 Assessing Sensibility (Consciousness) in Poultry

The operator's Written Animal Welfare Program will provide methods to assess sensibility in the species slaughtered and for the type of stunning equipment in use.

The evaluation of effective versus ineffective stun must be a collective assessment of all possible signs, not any one sign and includes an assessment whether all birds appear the same when looking down the line.

The following principles apply:

  • Effectiveness of stun is evaluated on an outcome basis (no signs of return to sensibility).
  • Sensibility is monitored on an ongoing basis.
  • The signs of sensibility and insensibility vary with the species and the method of stunning used.
  • The operator must include as part of the animal welfare control program, effective measures for ensuring all birds are effectively stunned and no conscious birds enters the scald tank alive. This includes the monitoring for signs that no birds are returning to sensibility at any point prior to entering the scald tank, including during the bleed out step. Monitoring at more than one point on the line is ideal and should include right after the stunning procedure and at some point during the bleed out process prior to the birds entering the scalding tank.

Concerns about assessing sensibility should be discussed with the VIC and the RVO.

12.14.7.1 Signs of Effective Electrical Stunning (Poultry)

The following can be signs of effective stun or insensibility/unconsciousness with electrical stunning (electronarcosis) or killing (electrocution):

  • no rhythmic breathing or signs of mouth breathing (opening and closing of beaks);
  • no neck tension;
  • rigidly extended legs (more difficult to see when shackled);
  • wings are held tightly against the body;
  • constant rapid body tremors (tonic seizures);and
  • may have convulsions (clonic seizures) that include non-intentional wing flapping, after rapid body tremors have stopped (tonic seizures).

Return to sensibility (consciousness) during bleed-out is not acceptable.

Signs of ineffective stun or return to sensibility/consciousness with electrical stunning can be:

  • vigorous and/or rhythmic wing flapping;
  • voluntary blinking (3rd eyelid nictitating membrane);
  • swallowing (may be difficult to assess);
  • return of tension in neck;
  • righting reflex
  • shaking of the head (intentional body movements); and
  • rhythmic breathing.
12.14.7.2 Signs of Effective Gas Stunning (Poultry)

Signs of an effective kill or stun with gas can include:

  • loss of posture;
  • loss of rhythmic breathing;
  • pupils dilated; and
  • wings drooping.

Signs of ineffective stun or return to sensibility/consciousness with gas stunning can be:

  • rhythmic breathing; and
  • righting reflex with wing flapping and head movements.
12.14.7.3 Captive Bolt (Poultry)

Signs of effective stunning with captive bolt can include:

  • vigorous flapping and severe convulsions;
  • loss of rhythmic breathing;
  • rigidly extended legs (more difficult to see when shackled);
  • leg flexion and extension; and
  • absence of a third eyelid (nictitating membrane) reflex.

12.15 Domesticated Rabbit Slaughter and Dressing Procedures

In general, the slaughter and dressing of rabbit carcasses follow the procedures described for poultry in this chapter.

Rabbit-processing slaughter establishments must have a written animal welfare program that addresses all activities, as per poultry-processing slaughter plant establishments (see Section A).

12.15.1 Facilities/Equipment and Animal Welfare

See the relevant sections in Poultry Welfare Part C.

12.15.2 Transportation and Rabbit Welfare

The time in transport for rabbits begins when the first animal is loaded into a crate module or container and ends when the last animal is unloaded from the crate module or container at the slaughter establishment.

12.15.3 Receiving, Holding and Unloading of Rabbits

Pre-slaughter handling and transport of rabbits has both food quality and welfare impacts. Stress (including heat, cold, humidity, noise levels, and stress related to handling) must be minimized while in lairage.

Rabbits are adapted to extract water from their food. If they must be held for extended times in a slaughter establishments their requirement for water can be met by providing carrots or similar food source.

The operator's written welfare program (including staff training) will identify, monitor, and minimize these sources of stress.

Deviations in procedure equipment or handling will be identified, corrected and recorded.

Compliance and enforcement requirements are the same as with poultry.

12.15.4 Handling and Rabbit Welfare

Rabbits have fragile skeletons and strong muscles in the hindquarters. They are susceptible to hind legs and vertebral fractures if handled improperly.

  • Lift rabbits by placing one hand under the rump. The animal's head can be restrained by grasping the ears or the loose skin behind the ears with the other hand.
  • Conscious rabbits must never be lifted by, or have their weight supported by, their hind legs or ears.
  • Rabbits must be stunned before hanging.

Prohibited methods of stunning and killing of rabbits:

  • cervical dislocation (atlanto-axial elongation); and
  • stunning using a blow to the back of the head or neck (with a stick or pipe or similar tool).
Acceptable methods for stunning rabbits
12.15.4.1 Electrical Stunning
  • Rabbits can be stunned using electricity.
  • Do not use water bath stunning on conscious rabbits.
  • Head only electrical stunning can be achieved by applying current across the cranium using a stunning device, specifically designed for rabbits.
    • Rabbit fur is resistant to an electric current which makes effective electrical stunning challenging.
    • Acceptable current: 140 mAmps and 100 volts for a period of three seconds.
    • The electrodes must be placed on either side of the head (transcranial flow of electricity).
    • Do not place electrodes on the neck.
    • Electrical stunning can be facilitated by wetting the fur.

Electrical stunning includes hand-held and automated electrical stunning devices.

The plant operator's Written Animal Welfare Program must include methods to ensure that:

  • the stunning device is used, as per the manufacturer's specifications.
  • the operator's recommended equipment settings for each size of animal that is stunned including specification of:
    • the voltage;
    • amperage;
    • the current frequency; and
    • the time of stun.
  • the electrical stunning device is maintained and cleaned, as stated in the plant operator's written program and the manufacturer's specifications. In cases where the manufacturer's recommendations are not used, documentation to explain the rationale for the variance must be developed and maintained;
  • the voltage and amperage are monitored and recorded throughout the shift;
  • the length of time of the current is applied is measured;
  • the electrical stunning device is not used as a handling aid or restraint and does not deliver any shock before stunning occurs;
  • for head only stunning, electrodes must be positioned to span the brain;
  • for head-to-body stunning, the electrodes must span the brain and heart simultaneously, or span the brain and immediately thereafter the heart;
  • the electrode(s) must not be positioned on the animal's neck; causing immobilization without loss of consciousness is not permitted:
    • an animal that is not moving is not necessarily insensible; and
    • incidents of preshock or electroimmobilization must be monitored and prevented by the operator's Written Animal Welfare program.
  • for head only electric stunning, the stun-to-stick interval should not exceed 15 seconds; and
  • a backup stunning device must be available.
12.15.4.2 Captive Bolt Stunning
  • Stunning of rabbits may be performed in the transport modules before hanging.
  • Must be the appropriate size for very small animals.
  • Target on skull: the skin on the animal's head is loosely attached to the skull and readily moves when handled; care must be taken to ensure that internal skull landmarks have not rotated relative to the skin and external landmarks.
  • See Annex A.

Signs of a good stun:

  • immediate loss of posture; and
  • immediate and sustained absence of rhythmic breathing and loss of voluntary blink.

12.15.5 Hanging and Rabbit Welfare

  • Best practice standards require that rabbits are stunned and insensible before shackling or hanging.
  • Rabbits must not be allowed to return to sensibility on the bleed line

12.15.6 Bleeding (Rabbits)

  • Best practice standards require that rabbits should be exsanguinated only after being rendered insensible by physical means (stunning).
  • Bleeding must occur as soon as possible after stunning, especially if head only electric stun is used (guideline: under 15 seconds).
  • Bleeding must be performed by severing at least one jugular vein and carotid artery.
    • The head can be severed ventrally or dorsally (incision in the atlanto-axial intervertebral space).
  • Dressing procedures shall not begin until there is no possibility of return to sensibility.

12.16 Ritual Slaughter of Poultry and Rabbits

Plant operators must meet the following requirements to process animals by ritual slaughter:

  • The plant operator's Written Animal Welfare program must have a written ritual slaughter protocol that addresses animal handling, restraint appropriate for a live, conscious animal, and correct slaughter technique, in accordance with MIR 77.
  • The written Animal Welfare Program must be reviewed and accepted by the CFIA, in consultation with the RVO.
  • The written Animal Welfare Program must include monitoring, records, deviation procedures, corrective action, preventative measures and verification; the operator must review the ritual slaughter Animal Welfare Program and its effectiveness and modify it as needed.
  • The competence of the individual performing ritual slaughter, as well as all aspects of humane slaughter, is the responsibility of the plant operator (MIR 80).
  • The plant operator must implement effective corrective action procedures, in the event of ineffective ritual slaughter.
  • The plant operator must monitor humane handling, the sensibility of the animal, the effectiveness of ritual slaughter, and take immediate corrective action when required.
  • Pre-slaughter handling requirements are the same as those for all food animals.
  • Careful and quiet pre-slaughter handling is especially important for humane ritual slaughter. Birds and rabbits must be calm prior to slaughter.
  • Live, conscious animals must not be shackled for slaughter without stunning (ritual slaughter)
  • For a conscious, un-stunned rabbit, it is appropriate to manually restrain the rabbit in the upright position to perform the ritual cut.
  • A trained, competent individual must carry out the slaughter with well-maintained (sharpened) equipment.
  • Slaughter must be performed by a single stroke, resulting in rapid, simultaneous, and complete severance of both carotid arteries and the jugular veins.
  • Blood loss must be rapid and must not be impeded by any contact with restraining devices.
  • Loss of sensibility and animal welfare must be routinely monitored during handling, cutting and bleeding.
  • No dressing procedures shall occur until after the animal has been rendered insensible and shows no signs of potential return to sensibility.

Animals Not eligible for Ritual Slaughter (Rejected Birds or Rabbits)

  • The operator's Written Animal Welfare Policy must include a written protocol for humane handling birds that are determined by the ritual slaughteman to be not acceptable for ritual slaughter.
  • If they are to be euthanized, the method must be approved by the VIC.
  • Euthanasia must be performed humanely by trained competent employees.
  • Never put live birds in a DOA bin.

12.17 Unacceptable Procedures or Acts for Poultry and Rabbit Slaughter

Deliberate acts of abuse or mishandling of birds include, but are not limited to:

  • kicking, hitting, throwing, crushing, or mutilating birds in (or with) equipment;
  • washing crates containing live birds;
  • shackling birds by only one leg;
  • deliberately stunning animals and allowing them to recover;
  • continuing use of stunning equipment or automatic knives that are obviously malfunctioning;
  • putting live, uncut birds in the scald tank;
  • shackling conscious rabbits; and
  • failure to take action if animals are sensible on the line.

12.18 Priorities During Unscheduled Stoppages

Unforeseen stoppages in production do occur.

A written plan must be developed and maintained for unscheduled stoppages. This plan must consider the types and condition of animals on the premises, as well as the types of holding facilities, ventilation, and time since feed withdrawal and bio security.

The contingency plan should address:

  • suitable alternate locations where animals can be unloaded, slaughtered or temporarily housed (including consideration of distance, weather conditions, total transport time, suitability/availability of transport vehicles and biosecurity); and
  • timely unloading of imported animals where temporary housing in other locations is not an option (those animals designated for immediate slaughter transported in sealed vehicles).

12.19 Reference material and links

Meat Inspection Act

Meat Inspection Regulations

Health of Animals Act

Health of Animals Regulations

Humane Transport/Animal Welfare

Humane Handling and Slaughter in Canada

Annex A: Species-Specific Stunning Guidelines – Red Meat Species

Annex C: Objective Criteria for Humane Slaughter – Red Meat Species

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