The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has welcomed the review of the 'Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing [England] Regulations [WATOK]', but called on the government to commit to making the improvements outlined in the report.

The post-implementation review of England’s WATOK regulations, published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), recognises several policy recommendations proposed by BVA.

These include:

  • Specifying that all electrical-waterbath of stunning of poultry should be carried out in accordance with the minimum currents laid down in Annex I of EC 1099/2009;
  • The urgent need for research to develop non-aversive stunning methods in pigs;
  • The urgent need for research into the development of recoverable stunning methods that effectively stun birds of all sizes, strains, and ages, and remove the need for live shackling and inversion pre-slaughter;
  • Improved regulation of non-stun slaughter so that supply meets demand and clearer labelling for consumers;
  • Legislative protections for the welfare of farmed fish at slaughter.

Commenting on the review, BVA President James Russell said:

"We agree with the report’s findings that current WATOK regulations provide a good framework to support positive animal health and welfare outcomes.

"We’re proud of the official veterinarians who play an integral role in securing high standards of animal health and welfare in slaughterhouses."

'Evidence-based legislation'

Russell continued:

"It is critically important that we have evidence-based legislation in place so that slaughter processes result in a humane death for animals, that minimises avoidable pain, distress, fear, and suffering.

But it’s clear there is room for improvement. We’re pleased that several BVA recommendations were highlighted as key areas for improvements in the current regulations.

"However, we’re concerned that the publication of the review did not include a commitment to action.

"The next step must be for the government to demonstrate its intentions to be a world leader in animal welfare across the board by implementing the recommendations, which are supported by vets, animal welfare experts, and industry," he concluded.