Chickens 'suffer needlessly in slaughterhouses'

Chickens are not being reliably stunned before slaughter and so may be conscious when they enter a scalding vat, the pressure group Compassion in World Farming said yesterday.

Live chickens are hung upside down by the legs in metal shackles and then carried by a moving belt to a water bath. An electric current is passed through their bodies stunning them. However, the current recommended by the Ministry of Agriculture, 105 milliamps, is not adequate for the job, Peter Stevenson, who has written a report on the slaughter of chickens for Compassion in World Farming, said.

'A current of at least 120 milliamps per bird is needed,' Mr Stevenson said. 'This will cause a cardiac arrest in 90 per cent of the birds. A smaller current is not sufficient to guarantee that the birds will not regain consciousness before entering the scalding bath.'

However, stunning with a larger current may cause blemishes to the carcasses, reducing their value. This makes poultrymen reluctant to use higher currents, although the smaller number of birds affected in this way can still be cut up and sold as chicken portions. After being stunned, the birds have their throats cut in a special machine and are left to bleed for about a minute and a half. They then die from loss of blood. But the method of cutting the throat is not efficient enough, Mr Stevenson said.

To be certain that the bird is dead before being scalded - a process which is necessary to loosen the feathers for plucking - the throat should be cut on both sides, severing both branches of the carotid artery, as well as the jugular veins, he said.

Poultrymen are reluctant to cut the throat on both sides because it makes the head too loose. The head may then fall into the feathers during plucking, reducing the value of the feathers.

Some chicken farmers believe that the bird's heart should continue to beat after its neck is cut so that the blood is fully pumped from its body. This has made them reluctant to use a larger current in the stunning machine. However, scientific experiments have shown that just as much blood leaves the body if the heart is not beating when the throat is cut.

New compulsory regulations, rather than a code of practice, are needed to prevent this needless suffering, Compassion in World Farming said. New slaughtering machinery would need to be designed to meet the suggestions of the pressure group. Existing machines use a constant voltage to stun birds but it is the current that should be constant to do the job reliably, Mr Stevenson said.

Compassion in World Farming has tried without success to obtain information through parliamentary questions on practices in UK slaughterhouses. Although slaughterhouses are inspected by Ministry of Agriculture veterinarians, the ministry said that no information was available on the proportion of birds which are stunned in practice.

Peter Clark, British Chicken Association chairman, said: 'We refute all charges of unnecessary suffering being caused at any stage of the production process, or that the welfare of the birds is sacrificed to commercial gain.'

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleMemoir extracts show iconic designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Life and Style
fashionAlexander Fury's Spring/Summer 2015 London Fashion Week roundup
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late on stage in Brixton show
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
people''Women's rights is too often synonymous with man-hating'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam