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Operational guideline: Humane slaughter guidelines for avian food animals including ratites

Although the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) came into force on January 15, 2019, certain requirements are being phased in over the following 12 to 30 months. For more information, refer to the SFCR timelines.

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1.0 Purpose

The purpose of this document is to provide guidance to Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Inspection Staff on humane slaughter of avian food animals including ratites.

This document is intended to be used in conjunction with other guidance documents as referenced in section 3.0 since it is limited to information not included in these documents.

The guidance outlined below should be used when verifying compliance with regulatory requirements related to humane slaughter activities of avian food animals including ratites.

2.0 Authorities

The inspection powers, control actions and enforcement actions authorized by the above legislation are identified and explained in the Food regulatory response guidelines.

3.0 Reference documents

4.0 Definitions

Unless specified below, definitions are located in either the:

Additional technical definitions are located in the Mechanical, electrical, gas stunning, slaughter methods and monitoring signs of unconsciousness or consciousness.

5.0 Acronyms

Acronyms are spelled out the first time they are used in this document and are consolidated in the food business line acronyms list (under development).

6.0 Operational guideline

The legal framework for humane stunning and slaughter of food animals is sections 141, 142, 143(1) and 143(2) of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR). Other applicable SFCR regulatory provisions include sections 128, 135(1) and 135(2), which protect all live animals at the establishment from the time of arrival until death.

The information presented in this document is intended to help CFIA staff undertake their inspections and to be used in conjunction with the following documents:

CFIA must understand Industry requirements to be able to verify compliance to SFCR. Additionally, this document provides guidance intended specifically for inspectors to enable them to conduct compliance verification activities and to take enforcement action.

6.1 Compliance verification

6.2 General principles of compliance action applicable to humane slaughter

Please refer to the Food regulatory response guidelines as each situation is unique and different compliance and/or enforcement actions could be taken depending on the context. In the following sub-sections, general examples are given but judgment needs to be applied as well as consultation with the appropriate resources in your Area.

6.2.1 Compliance actions for issues which directly contravene SFCR provisions Compliance actions for zero tolerance issues Compliance actions for deliberate acts of cruelty

6.2.2 Compliance actions for issues which do not directly contravene SFCR provisions

6.3 Guidelines for verifying compliance to humane slaughter regulatory requirements

6.4 Shackling

6.5 Stunning

6.5.1 Testing stunning equipment


There are exceptional circumstances where the use of an equipment to test electrical parameters has already been done but there is still an absolute need to confirm that the stunning is effective and lasting long enough (> 30 seconds) to ensure it induces unconsciousness and is not in fact causing electro-immobilization. In these cases, it is permissible to allow a very small number of stunned birds to bypass the cutting equipment in order to measure the time it takes for return to sensibility after stunner exit if it is under 30 seconds. However, the birds must remain shackled at all times (they are not to be removed from the line) and they must be immediately killed by rapid decapitation as soon as the very first signs of return to sensibility appear. A bird must not be allowed to fully regain sensibility. Each bird must be observed closely from the point of stunner exit until decapitation has been completed. A situation leading to this demonstration could include a case where the slaughter is performed by water-bath stunning and rapid continuous decapitation with CFIA or the licence holder still having concerns about the stunning efficiency and length while other methods have already been used to evaluate it.

6.5.2 Pre-stun shocks

6.5.3 Electric water-bath stunning

6.5.4 Electric grid/plate stunning

6.5.5 Head-only electrical stunning

6.5.6 Controlled Atmosphere Stunning (CAS)

6.5.7 Captive bolt stunning

6.5.8 Ritual slaughter with prior stunning

6.6 Monitoring sensibility, insensibility and return to sensibility

6.7 Corrective actions for failed stuns

6.7.1 Understanding what an objective performance criteria of 98% efficiency means

6.8 Bleeding

6.8.1 Automatic neck cutting

6.8.2 Decapitation as an alternative to automatic neck cutting

6.8.3 Application of second shocks to promote rapid bleeding

6.9 Inadequate bleeding

6.9.1 Corrective action for inadequate bleeding

6.10 Uncut birds

6.10.1 Compliance actions for uncut birds

6.11 Quail and other similar small birds (Rock Cornish Hens)

6.12 Waterfowl

6.13 Ratites

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