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The WISER project - Welfare indicators assessed at slaughter: evaluation in ruminants

The aim of this project is to assess whether abattoirs could be a useful place to assess welfare in cattle and sheep, assessing welfare on their farm of origin, at market or during transport to the abattoir.

The vast majority of farmed animals are slaughtered in abattoirs: abattoirs are therefore a potentially useful site to gather information on animal welfare (including animal health) that could be used to inform producers, abattoir owners and government of the current welfare situation in individual and the national flock / herd. Such information could be used to indicate Great Britain welfare performance, to highlight excellence in welfare and potentially to identify, target and measure areas for welfare improvement.

Abattoirs are busy, complex places with many individuals employed by several organizations working together under pressure. We therefore propose working with all those involved in managing animals through abattoirs (the stakeholders) including government regulators of abattoirs, bodies with an interest in animal welfare, producers sending animals to abattoir, owners of abattoirs receiving animals and those who currently assess animals in abattoirs to ensure that results obtained are developed by and accepted by stakeholders.

From these stakeholders we will identify how they perceive the use of abattoirs as a location to assess animal welfare and how this could best be done in terms of how animals could be observed, how data could be recorded and analysed and who could use the results obtained to obtain maximum compliance form all stakeholders. We will work with abattoir owners to develop and test welfare indicators that can be used in abattoirs and establish the feasible collection of data for each indicator and its usefulness for each stakeholder. We will evaluate how welfare indicators could be used for audit and surveillance.

The potential relevance of this work for policy is that inspection of animals before and after slaughter in abattoirs is currently under review. Research results in the next two years that inform on the usefulness of abattoirs to evaluate animal welfare (given that the vast majority of animals are slaughtered) can be incorporated into any changes in animal inspections in abattoirs. Results could potentially feed into the further development of risk based targeting of animal welfare inspections on farm.

Funded by:

DEFRA

Project staff:

 

Laura Green

Corinna Clark

Kenneth Clarke

Jane Downes

Miriam Parker