There is an increasing awareness that currently accepted moral standards of our society call for the prevention of any avoidable suffering. Domestication and artificial selection have made farm animals dependent on humans.
Consequently, according to the existing principles of ethics, humans must accept this dependence as a commitment for humane conduct toward domestic animals in all stages of their life.
Welfare codes like this Canadian Code of Practice are intended to encourage livestock producers, stock-keepers, handlers, transporters, and processors to adopt the highest standards of animal husbandry and handling.
In this paper conventional cages are compared to furnished cages, non-cage systems, and outdoor systems. It appears that no single housing system is ideal from a hen welfare perspective. Although environmental complexity increases behavioral opportunities, it also introduces difficulties in terms of disease and pest control.
One specific circumstance has not been taken into consideration in this paper: how to depopulate the hens in case of an outbreak situation. Emergency control is not an economic parameter to choose a specific production system, but comparing a production system with or without cages, it is clear that it is much easier to depopulate chickens in a system without cages. Without a proper technique to cull the animals in a animal welfare friendly way and to transport the carcasses out of the house mechanically, the chickens are killed and transported manually.
This is not only increasing the risks for humans to get infected, it also influences the risks that animals suffer unnecessary during depopulation. Handling animals during outbreak situations is mostly done by inexperienced responders who have little to no knowledge about animal welfare. Veterinary authorities in charge of the response activities have issues like effectiveness and efficiency to consider.
How to depopulate the chickens in an outbreak situation is an important welfare indicator and the producer of these systems need to be kept responsible for the technical solution.
Research Fellow Queensland University /
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AVT Applied Veterinary Technologies Europe AB
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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.
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.
In January 2012, the OIE gave in Japan an update on the latest developments in killing animals for disease control purposes. The Anoxia method was one of the presented techniques. Today, one year later, the Anoxia technique is commercially available worldwide. Inhumane killing of animals is not longer necessary and the risks of getting infected has been reduced to a minimum.
Original paper Title: ‘The Broiler’s last day of life: Influences of feed withdrawal, catching and transport on physiology and losses of broilers’, by Edwin Nijdam. Before slaughter, broilers are subjected to several preslaughter management events such as feed withdrawal, catching, crating, transport, and lairage. The aim of this study was to gain insight into factors which influence mortality, stress, energy metabolism, and meat quality of the broilers on the last day of their life.
The mean percentage of broilers that arrived dead at the conveyer belt of the slaughterhouse (DOA) was 0.46. Factors associated with DOA percentage were ambient temperature, moment of transport, catching company, breed, flock size, mean body weight, mean compartment stocking density, transport time, lairage time, and the interaction term transport time x ambient temperature. The most important factors that influence DOA percentage, and which could be reduced relatively easily, were compartment stocking density (Odds Ratio (OR) = 1.09 for each additional bird in a compartment), transport time (OR = 1.06 for each additional 15 min), and lairage time (OR = 1.03 for each additional 15 min). Moreover, the mean percentage of bruises was 2.20. Factors associated with corrected bruises percentage were season, moment of transport, and ambient temperature.
To establish predisposing factors for DOA broilers a gross post mortem investigation was done. Macroscopic lesions were found in 89.4% of DOA broilers. Signs of infectious diseases appeared to be most frequent (64.9%), followed by heart and circulation disorders (42.4%), and trauma (29.5%). The right ventricle mass to the total ventricle mass (RV:TV) was significantly higher in DOA broilers than in slaughtered broilers.
Manual catching of broilers leads to stress in the birds and is backbreaking for the workers. Therefore, mechanical catching of broilers was investigated. Mechanical catching was associated with higher DOA percentages than manual catching. However, the catching method did not influence the percentages of bruises, meat quality, and corticosterone (CORT) levels.
Feed is normally withdrawn for several hours before catching in order to reduce the danger of carcass contamination. Feed withdrawn broilers showed higher thyroxine and lower triiodothyronine, triglyceride, glucose, and lactate concentrations compared to broilers that had access to feed before the transport intervention. These findings indicate a negative energy balance, and, accordingly, BW losses occurred. BW losses further increase during transport.
To reduce the negative effects of feed withdrawal semisynthetic diets were investigated. After transport the BW loss of broilers fed semisynthetic diets was 0.24% / h less than of feed withdrawn broilers. BW loss of broilers fed conventional diets was 0.28% / h less than of feed withdrawn broilers. Moreover, the digestive tract mass was lower in broilers fed a semisynthetic diet than in broilers fed a conventional diet, which can lead to a lesser degree of contamination during evisceration. Beside that, no increase of CORT was found due to transport in broilers fed a semisynthetic diet, whereas CORT significantly increased during this period in broilers fed a conventional diet. Consequently, semisynthetic feed is a promising alternative for feed withdrawal in the period before catching and crating.
In commercial egg production, male chicks are killed immediately after hatch as they are not profitable for meat production. Some of them are utilised as feed for zoo or pet animals, or snack for humans, but they do not have a life of significance. In many countries people have objections against this practice.
The origin of this problem is the development and use of specialised breeds for specific purposes, to obtain increased production efficiency and low-priced animal products. Specialization can overcome the opposite requirements for high efficiency in the production of meat and eggs (milk), respectively. For efficient meat production, a high growth rate is essential. In contrast, for efficient production of eggs or milk, low animal maintenance costs, i.e. a high production rate per kg body mass, is most important. This dichotomy is most clearly seen in modern industrialized poultry production. Egg type males require 3 times more time and 2-4 times more feed than meat type birds to reach an acceptable slaughter weight, while meat type hens require much feed for growth and maintenance which makes them inefficient for egg production.
Selection of layer type birds for improved growth rate could make it more attractive to rear the males for meat production, but would strongly compromise efficiency of egg production by the females. A similar situation, albeit less extreme (for now?) can be found in dairy goats and cattle. Male offspring of dairy goat and some typical dairy cattle breeds do not have an economic value for meat production and may be killed at birth. In terms of economics, resource efficiency, or animal welfare (provided killing is carried out in a humane way), this may not be a problem but ethically it is. We discuss this ethical dilemma and explore technological and niche market alternatives as possible solutions.
To date, animal welfare measures have focused primarily on the avoidance of cruelty and the provision of basic needs. Christopher Wathes, chairman of the Farm Animal Welfare Council, argues that it is important to take animals’ positive experiences into account as well.
Vets make ethical decisions all the time so need to know about ethics in order to make them well. There are arguments for granting animals some form of moral worth. There are various ethical theories which attempt to address the issues of animals and their treatment. Perhaps the most difficult question raised in animal ethics is when is it acceptable to kill animals?