Chapter 12: Food Animal Humane Handling and Slaughter – Animal Welfare Requirements
Part C: Poultry and Rabbit Species

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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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