The World Animal Health Organization (OIE) has completed animal-welfare guidelines for livestock transport, slaughter and killing of animals for disease control. It also has draft guidelines under review for welfare on the farm for broiler chickens and beef cattle. Draft guidelines for pigs, sheep and laying hens are under development. More than 100 countries are members of the OIE and it includes both developed and developing countries. The Parisbased OIE is the same organization that sets the international standards for animal-disease control. It issues the international guidelines that are used around the world for determining disease control practices for serious diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease.
The OIE guidelines are basic minimum standards that every country should comply with. In many countries, government regulations, industry guidelines or private standards that are required for large meat buyers may be stricter. The 2007 American Meat Institute standards have no conflicts with OIE guidelines except for electric prod use. The OIE states that electric prods should be battery-operated units only and that they should not be used on horses, small piglets or sheep. The 2007 AMI guidelines allow electric prod use on sheep and wired in non-battery-operated electric prods are allowed.
The use of numerical scoring is encouraged by the OIE. Chapter 7.3 of the slaughter guideline states, “In properly designed and constructed facilities with competent animal handlers, it should be possible to move 99 percent of the animals without their falling.”
OIE standards are created by a process that starts with the ad-hoc committees for each specific guideline, such as slaughter or transport. The ad-hoc committee creates the first draft of each specific guideline and then comments are reserved from all the member countries and incorporated into the draft standard. The standard then leaves the ad-hoc committee and goes through an overall animal welfare committee for further additions and changes.
Establishing clear guidelines
I had the opportunity to serve on the ad-hoc committee for the slaughter guideline. In all of my work on the committee, I have been an advocate for establishing guidelines that are not vague. There are some bad things that people should not do in any country. Most of my input into the slaughter document was on handling issues. The slaughter guideline clearly states that animals should not be thrown, dragged or dropped. It also has wording prohibiting animal abuse that is similar to the act of abuse in the American Meat Institute Guidelines. It also has strong language against the use of horrific practices that occur in some developing countries, such as cutting tendons on live animals to restrain them and poking out eyes. The additional rules on electric-prod use were added after the document left our committee.
In the stunning section, the rules for the captive-bolt and electric stunners are very similar to the AMI guidelines and the guidelines from the Humane Slaughter Association in the United Kingdom. Religious slaughter is specifically allowed under the OIE guideline, but abusive methods of restraint should not be used. The guidelines for gas stunning poultry are marked “under study” because there is so much controversy between scientists on the correct gas mixture.
In the draft versions of the beef and broiler-chicken standards, there is an emphasis on animal-based outcome standards, such as measuring damage on the birds caused by poor litter conditions. I am very much in favor of the use of animal-based outcome standards such as measuring lameness, bruises, broken wings, body condition score and other things that can be directly observed. One of the reasons the AMI scoring system has been effective is because it is very objective and simple to implement. The numerical scores are outcomes of many different problems. Both the beef and chicken draft documents are very vague and I recommended listing specific animal-based outcome measures such as broken wings, breast blisters, hock burn, bruises, lameness, body condition score and others. Animal-based outcome measures are also the basis of the massive European Union Welfare Quality Project. I support the use of animalbased outcome standards, coupled with some clear prohibitions against practices that need to be stopped.
Dr. Temple Grandin operates Grandin Livestock Systems Inc., Fort Collins, Colo., and is a faculty member in the animal science department at Colorado State Univ.