Leading vet school wins humane slaughter award

A leading veterinary school has won an annual award from the Humane Slaughter Association (HSA) in recognition of the significant scientific and technical contribution it has made to improving the humane slaughter of livestock.

The Stunning and Slaughter Group at the University of Bristol’s School of Veterinary Sciences at Langford was presented with the award on Thursday (19 July). The group, which includes Dr Toby Knowles, Dr Jeff Lines, Dr Mike O’Callaghan, Dr Mohan Raj, Lindsay Wilkins and Steve Wotton MBE, was said to have made major contributions to the science underpinning humane livestock slaughter.

The award was renamed the ‘HSA John Ace-Hopkins Award for Significant Advances in Humane Slaughter’ in memory of last year’s winner, John Ace-Hopkins, who died in November 2011.

The group, led primarily by Dr Raj, has spent over 15 years looking at alternatives to the multi-bird electrical waterbath stunner, investigating the design and operation of a poultry waterbath stunner. It also initially developed the use of controlled atmosphere (CA) slaughter system, paving the way for a commercial gas slaughter system, which encourages better welfare practices because the birds do not need to be handled or shackled.  

The group has also undertaken research assessing the efficacy of electrical stunning, and looking at welfare refinements for this method, which remained widely used throughout the poultry industry.  

Dr Becky Whay, head of the Animal Welfare and Behaviour Group at the University of Bristol’s School of Veterinary Sciences, said: “I am delighted the group has been recognised with this award for their work, especially as Drs Raj and O’Callaghan have recently retired after a lifetime’s work in this field.
“The group’s research has led to a high-welfare alternative through the use of both CA and an electrical alternative that has real potential for the future.”
The group has also played a role in training and promoting good welfare practices through the Masters degree in Meat Science and Technology and the Animal Welfare Officer training courses, as well as contributing to the Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC) and European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) scientific reviews.
The HSA is an independent charity that works to improve the welfare of food animals worldwide during transport, marketing and slaughter through educational, scientific and technical advances.

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