Dossier Australia: Supermarket RSPCA Production Demands Force Farmers to Change Systems

Published online on Thursday 24th April 2014 by Jackie Linden, Senior Editor of The Poultry Site. Poultry farmers across Australia have to change their production systems as more supermarkets are demanding RSPCA welfare guidelines for rearing birds. The changes demanded by the supermarkets are likely to add up to 20 cents onto the price of a chicken as production costs increase.

The move has been sparked following actions by supermarkets such as Coles to demand the welfare friendly and ethical production measures.

Coles demanded that all the chickens they sold be reared to RSPCA standards in January this year. At the time Coles Chief Operating Officer, John Durkan, said the move to RSPCA Approved chicken was the latest in a series of quality improvements the supermarket chain was making. “Coles has listened carefully to what customers are telling us about animal welfare and the quality of the food they feed their families. We’ve taken this feedback to our farmers and growers and worked with them to deliver a better product,” he said.

The RSPCA standards require all birds reared indoors to have additional welfare measures in the barns. The also require access to outdoor areas for free range systems as soon as the birds are reasonably feathered and they stipulate stocking densities and the need for enrichment and perches and minimum periods for light and dark for the birds.

Share

Outbreak HPAI in Japan (14 April 2014): What goes wrong here?

Outbreak of H5N1 in Japan: what could go possibly wrong that would cause reintroduction of the virus in other parts of Japan?

Viruses are mostly spread through the air, transmitting from wild birds into farms, due to lack of bio security; or by people and materials that have been involved in the eradication of the infected animals. Weather conditions also play an important role, like wind direction and temperature.

So once a farm is infected, the number of people and the materials needed for the eradication has to be limited to the minimum.

What goes wrong in many cases is that governments are not prepared because they didn’t want to invest in the correct techniques.

So when it happens, they are doomed to bring in as many people as they can, causing an enormous risk of reintroduction of the viruses.

Most of these people are poorly trained in bio security and using personal protection equipment correctly. If something goes wrong, they may become the next source of infection.

Share

Deadly H5N1 birdflu needs just five mutations to spread easily in people

Reference: Phys.org. 15 Apr 2014. Dutch researchers have found that the virus needs only five favorable gene mutations to become transmissible through coughing or sneezing, like regular flu viruses.

World health officials have long feared that the H5N1 virus will someday evolve a knack for airborne transmission, setting off a devastating pandemic. While the new study suggests the mutations needed are relatively few, it remains unclear whether they’re likely to happen outside the laboratory.

Share

Novel Reassortant Influenza A(H5N8) Viruses, South Korea, April 2014

The latest outbreak of bird flu in South Korea, which has spread across the country from Gochang, North Jeolla Province since mid-January, will be completely eradicated in late May, the South Korean authorities promise. In a National Assembly committee on Monday, South Korean Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Lee Dong-phil said, “It’ll be possible to declare eradication of bird flu around late May unless there’s further outbreak.”

A ministry official said it would be safe to declare the country free from bird flu 40 days after all preventive culling of poultry is complete, provided there are no further suspected cases. Only one report of a suspected case of bird flu came in from Gochang this month.

The latest outbreak of bird flu will go down in South Korea’s history as the most devastating so far. Until Monday, a total of 12.36 million chickens and ducks had been culled and buried. The outbreak also spread more widely than any other, affecting some 70 municipalities compared to the earlier record of 25 in 2010. The longest epidemic lasted for 139 days in 2010.

The ministry told the committee that migratory birds from China probably carried the latest outbreak. An official with the Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency said, “We believe that the H5N8 virus came from China, given that it was first discovered in Zhejiang Province.”

Visit the CDC website for more detailed information.

Share

EFSA report: Unlikely that the percussive blow-to-the-head method will be allowed to slaughter animals

New methods have to be developed to replace brute-force methods like smashing animals with their head against the wall. And these methods have to be approved by EFSA. This is one of the important conclusions after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) carried out a public consultation to receive input from the scientific community and all interested parties on the Draft Guidance on the assessment criteria for studies evaluating the effectiveness of stunning interventions regarding animal protection at the time of killing.

The guidance was prepared by the EFSA Panel on Animal Health and Welfare (AHAW Panel) and endorsed by the Panel for public consultation by written procedure on 10 July 2013. The written public consultation for this document was open from 15 July 2013 to 18 September 2013.

The current report summarizes the outcome of the public consultation, and includes a brief summary of the comments received and how they were addressed. The AHAW Panel prepared an updated version of the Guidance on the assessment criteria for studies evaluating the effectiveness of stunning interventions regarding animal protection at the time of killing that takes into account the questions and comments received.

One comment referred to a project regarding stunning piglets and goat kids by concussion (blow-at-the-head method):

“We have funded a research project looking at stunning piglets and goat kids by concussion as this is not currently permitted by 1099/2009, however has been common practice within industry on farm in the past –given that this opinion considers LAPS, should it also include concussion by a blow to the head? We are not aware of results at this stage, therefore I cannot comment on whether we will request in the future EFSA to review this method for inclusion” (Page 6).

The same comment was made, referring to concussion:

“We have funded a research project looking at stunning piglets and goat kids by concussion as this is not currently permitted by 1099/2009 however it has been common practice within industry on farm in the past – given that this opinion considers LAPS should it also include concussion by a blow to the head? We are not aware of results at this stage therefore I cannot comment on whether we will request in the future EFSA to review this method for inclusion” (Page 13).

EFSA Replies to this question as follows:

“The criteria and rules defined in this document apply also to back-up stunning methods used in slaughterhouses. While no detailed eligibility criteria for interventions other than those already defined in the Regulation can be provided in this document, the intervention has to be reported in sufficient detail and the outcome eligibility criteria must be fulfilled.”

And;

“The guidance considers all new or modified legal stunning interventions and back-up stunning interventions used at slaughter known to the AHAW Panel at the initiation of the mandate.”

This means that if the percussive blow-to-the-head method should become a legal method of killing or slaughter – other than as a back-up method – it has to undergo the same procedures as all killing and slaughter methods. That means the final end to the blow-on-the-head slaughter method. After the introduction of EU 1099/2009 it is no longer allowed as method to slaughter piglets, male sheep and goats, rabbits and chickens (with up to 5 kg live weight).

Share

EFSA paper on monitoring procedures at slaughterhouses

The objective of this review was to summarize the currently available data describing the sensitivity and specificity of indicators of unconsciousness and death in the following stun-kill methods and species combinations:

1) Penetrative captive bolt for bovine animals
2) Head-only electrical stunning for pigs
3) Head-only electrical stunning for sheep and goats
4) Electrical waterbath for poultry (chickens and turkeys)
5) Carbon dioxide at high concentration for pigs
6) All authorized gas methods to slaughter chickens and turkeys (carbon dioxide at high concentration, carbon dioxide in two phases, carbon dioxide associated with inert gases and inert gases alone)
7) Slaughter without stunning for bovine animals
8) Slaughter without stunning for sheep and goats
9) Slaughter without stunning for chickens and turkeys

The reference tests for unconsciousness and death were to have been measured using electroencephalography (EEG). The definition of unconsciousness and death based on EEG were not specified, and the definition used by authors was reported. The index tests of interest were a variety of indicators requested by the funding agency such as no corneal reflex and immediate collapse.

The index tests differed by stun-kill methods and species combination. A comprehensive search identified 22 publications contained 24 species-stun/kill method combinations.

No studies explicitly reported the sensitivity and specificity of the indicators in conscious and unconscious animals. Many studies reported the proportion of stunned animals with indicators, rather than the proportion of unconscious or conscious animals at a set time point with the indicators. Such data could not be translated into sensitivity and specificity.

Other studies reported the average time to occurrence of an indicator or average time to cessation of the indicators. Such data cannot be translated into sensitivity and specificity estimates without knowledge of the joint distributions.

Share

LAPS system to stun poultry is not allowed within the EU

There are two different approaches utilize Nitrogen to stun and kill animals: 1) rendering poultry unconscious – causing Anoxia – by placing poultry in foam filled with >98% Nitrogen (the Anoxia method), and 2) rendering poultry unconscious by gradually reducing oxygen tension in the atmosphere leading to progressive hypoxia in the birds (the LAPS method).

The Anoxia method, using a high concentration of Nitrogen under atmospheric circumstances is permitted under EU 1099/2009. The LAPS method is not permitted in the EU. In order to be allowed in the EU, new stunning methods must ensure a level of welfare at least equivalent to that of the methods already provided in Council Regulation 1099/2009.

The EFSA‟s Panel on Animal Health and Welfare (AHAW Panel) was asked to deliver a scientific opinion on the use of a low atmosphere pressure system (LAPS) for stunning poultry. Four documents were provided by the European Commission (EC) as the basis for an assessment of the extent to which the LAPS is able to provide a level of animal welfare at least equivalent to that ensured by the current allowed methods for stunning poultry.

The LAPS is described as rendering poultry unconscious by gradually reducing oxygen tension in the atmosphere leading to progressive hypoxia in the birds. In order to be allowed in the EU, new stunning methods must ensure 1) absence of pain, distress and suffering until the onset of unconsciousness, and 2) that the animal remains unconscious until death.

The submitted studies were peer-reviewed by the AHAW Panel as outlined in its “Guidance on the assessment criteria for studies evaluating the effectiveness of stunning intervention regarding animal protection at the time of killing”.

It is unclear from the submitted documents whether the rate of decompression used in LAPS induces unconsciousness and death without causing avoidable pain and suffering in poultry. The assessed studies did not pass the eligibility assessment and, therefore, no further assessment was undertaken.

Share

EFSA Guidance on assessment new stunning & slaughter methods

This guidance defines the assessment process and the criteria that will be applied by the Animal Health and Welfare Panel to studies on known new or modified legal stunning interventions to determine their suitability for further assessment.

The criteria that need to be fulfilled are eligibility criteria, reporting quality criteria and methodological quality criteria. The eligibility criteria are based upon the legislation and previously published scientific data. They focus on the intervention and the outcomes of interest, i.e. immediate onset of unconsciousness and insensibility or absence of avoidable pain, distress and suffering until the loss of consciousness and sensibility, and duration of the unconsciousness and insensibility (until death).

If a study fulfils the eligibility criteria, it will be assessed regarding a set of reporting quality criteria that are based on the REFLECT and the STROBE statements. As a final step in this first assessment phase, the methodological quality of the submitted study will be assessed. If the criteria regarding eligibility, reporting quality and methodological quality are fulfilled, a full assessment of the animal welfare implications of the proposed alternative stunning intervention, including both pre-stunning and stunning phases, and an evaluation of the quality, strength and external validity of the evidence presented would be carried out at the next level of the assessment.

In the case that the criteria regarding eligibility and reporting quality and methodological quality are not fulfilled, the assessment report of the panel will highlight the shortcomings and indicate where improvements are required before the study can be assessed further. In addition to the assessment criteria, the guidance also specifies general aspects applicable to studies on stunning interventions that should be considered when studying the effectiveness of stunning interventions.

Share