Defra - Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Science Search

Science and Research Projects

Return to Science Search homepage   Return to Project List

Ante- and Post-mortem inspection indicators of ruminant welfare - AW1028

The aim of this project is to assess whether abattoirs could be a useful place to assess welfare in cattle and sheep, both assessing welfare on their farm of origin and 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 GB 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 slaughter houses 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.
The general aims of the project are to identify ante and post mortem indicators of good and poor welfare in ruminants that can be identified at slaughter houses that can be used for audit and surveillance.

Objective 1.
We will target six classes of animal at slaughter: calves, prime beef and finished lambs and cull suckler cows, cull dairy cattle, and cull ewes. We will use published indicators for measurement of welfare in ruminants on farm, ante-mortem and post-mortem to identify which indicators correlate with at least one of the five freedoms as an indicator of welfare.

Objective 2. Defra meetings and stakeholder engagement for aims of project and current practice
Ideally, industry would self regulate on animal welfare and work together to improve welfare on farms through feedback and information to farmers, either directly from the abattoir or via quality assurance schemes. We aim to identify indicators that are most likely to be acceptable and adopted by industry or, if unacceptable, we understand why.

Objective 3. Development and testing of new welfare indicators
We will work with our industry partners with abattoirs convenient to York / Warwick with each of the six classes of ruminant to facilitate testing of the newly designed indicators for animal welfare in both large and medium sized slaughter houses.

Objective 4. Summary of semi-structured interviews from stakeholders
We will transcribe and summarise the semi-structured interviews to produce qualitative attitudes towards current and potential recording of welfare indicators at slaughter. We will use this to inform on Objective 5.

Objective 5. Estimating prevalence of welfare indicators
The main aim of Objective 5 is to identify the prevalence of each welfare indicator by class of animal, geographical location and time of year. This will inform on its use to audit on farm and in transit welfare and regional or national surveillance.

Objective 6. Presentation of results to stakeholders
We will revisit stakeholders, present results from the pilot testing and discuss a final list of indicators for each class of ruminant to determine acceptability and feasibility.

Objective 7. Summary of semi-structured interviews from stakeholders
We will produce stakeholder attitudes towards the use of proposed welfare indicators for audit and surveillance.

Objective 8. Testing of novel welfare indicators in a commercial setting
We will work with personnel from large and medium abattoirs to test the practicality and usefulness of the novel welfare indicators.

Objective 9. Reporting of project
We will report back results to stakeholders at group meetings and complete the final report, papers for peer review publication and lay press articles. We will present the results at interested stakeholder professional meetings.
Project Documents
• EVID4 - Final project report : AW1028 final report   (772k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2012

To: 2015

Cost: £365,773
Contractor / Funded Organisations
University of Warwick
Fields of Study
Animal Welfare