Do animals experience pain when slaughtered?

Slaughter and killing in slaughterhouses

Bringing and accommodating the animals in slaughterhouses

  • The animals must be unloaded as soon as possible after their arrival at the slaughterhouse. In the event of delays, protection from extreme weather conditions and adequate ventilation must be guaranteed.
  • The animals are to be protected from adverse weather conditions.
  • The general condition and health of the animals must be checked at least twice a day.
  • Animals that suffered or suffered pain during transport or after their arrival at the slaughterhouse, as well as animals that have not yet been weaned, must be slaughtered immediately.
  • Animals that are unable to walk are to be stunned and killed where they have remained lying.

Regulations for animals that are not delivered in transport containers:

  • Requirements for the unloading facilities (sure-footed floor area, guardrails, maximum inclination of the unloading ramps)
  • Animals must not be frightened or agitated or mistreated during unloading and must not be lifted in a way that causes them unnecessary pain or suffering.
  • The animals are to be driven carefully. The use of electric batons is only permitted in precisely defined situations.
  • It is forbidden to hit or bump the animals on particularly sensitive areas.
  • The stables must meet precisely defined requirements in terms of floors, ventilation system, lighting, tie-down devices and litter.
  • Runs must offer protection from the weather.
  • If the animals are not sent to slaughter immediately, they must be provided with clean drinking water and feed.

Regulations for animals that are delivered in transport containers:

  • The transport containers with animals must be handled with care and must not be thrown, dropped or knocked over.
  • The animals must be slaughtered as quickly as possible, otherwise they must be watered and fed.

Resting the animals before stunning, slaughtering or killing them

  • The animals are to be rested in such a way that avoidable pain, suffering, excitement, injuries and bruises are prevented.
  • It is forbidden to tie the animals' legs together and to hang them up before stunning and killing. Exceptions are poultry and rabbits (may be hung up, but must be anesthetized immediately afterwards). Keeping an animal in a fixture does not count as a suspension.
  • Animals that are stunned by mechanical or electrical stunning devices on the head are to be brought into a position in which the device can be used and operated easily, precisely and for as long as necessary.

Stunning and killing animals

The following methods can be used for stunning:

  • Captive bolt
  • Blunt shot-blow and head blow in rabbits, poultry and fish
  • Electronic anesthesia
  • Carbon dioxide stunning (in pigs)

The person carrying out the work must ensure that the animal is immediately put into a state of insensibility and unconsciousness that lasts until death.

The following methods can be used for killing:

  • Pistol or rifle shot
  • Cutting off the head and breaking the neck (only for poultry)
  • Electric current killing
  • Killing by carbon dioxide
  • Blunt blow (in rabbits, poultry and fish)

Bleeding animals

  • Bleeding must take place while the animal is still unable to feel and perceive.
  • Bleeding is initiated by piercing at least one of the two carotid arteries.
  • There are special regulations for ritual slaughter:
    • the shaft cut is made first
    • The anesthetic must be carried out immediately afterwards

Killing in special cases  

There are separate provisions for the following cases:

  • Killing animals as part of disease control
  • Killing surplus chicks and embryos in brood residue
  • Storage and killing of edible fish, frogs, crustaceans and shellfish
  • Killing of food animals

Training requirements

Persons who immobilize, stunning, slaughter and kill animals in slaughterhouses must provide evidence of appropriate training. The following persons are deemed to be appropriately trained:

  • With a successful degree in veterinary medicine
  • With a passed final examination in the profession of butcher in the sense of the trade regulations
  • With a successful completion of an agricultural college or a federal agricultural college
  • With the completion of another corresponding training, which includes the above-mentioned subjects and is recognized as equivalent by the Federal Ministry of Health
  • With training that is recognized as equivalent within the framework of European integration

Source: DFS