Correct Use of Captive-Bolt Stunners for Humane Slaughter and Euthanasia

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£10.00 + VAT for Students

Although developed primarily for use in commercial slaughterhouses, captive-bolt stunners are a useful, and safer, alternative to free-bullet firearms for the humane destruction of injured and diseased animals by veterinary surgeons, knackermen, livestock producers and others. Their use in the UK has increased greatly in recent years due to (in no particular order): health and safety legislation and concerns; stricter firearms legislation (all handguns are now Section 5 prohibited weapons); the introduction of quality assurance schemes and production standards, such as Freedom Foods; and an increasing reluctance of some to handle and operate firearms. Correct use and maintenance of captive-bolt equipment is essential to ensure effective, humane and safe stunning. By the end of the lecture, which will include some graphic DVD footage, attendees should have achieved a good understanding of: 

  • The physical principles behind captive-bolt stunning of livestock; 
  • The correct stunning positions for the different species; 
  • The critical importance of using the correct type of ammunition; 
  • The critical importance of rapid bleeding or pithing of the stunned animal; 
  • The critical importance of regular cleaning and routine maintenance; 
  • The importance, and health and safety implications, of secure transport and storage. 

In addition, there will be a short exercise of 10 questions with multiple-choice answers for viewers to test their level of understanding

£40.00 + VAT

£10.00 + VAT for Students


Presented By: Charles Mason

After graduating from Harper Adams Agricultural College in 1980 I spent five years working with livestock on various farms. Following this, I worked in livestock marketing for three years, during which time I became associated with the Humane Slaughter Association (HSA) and worked for it in a part-time capacity carrying out appraisals of livestock markets. Since 1988 I have worked full-time for the HSA, initially as a Technical Officer, as Chief Technical Officer from 1992–2001 and as Technical Director from 2001 to the present.

Instruction in the correct use and maintenance of various firearms, associated with the slaughter and emergency killing of farm animals, constitutes a large part of my work for the HSA. I hold both Firearm and Shotgun Certificates, as well as a full UK Slaughter Licence (including poultry). I am a regular speaker on firearms and slaughter equipment at veterinary conferences and training courses run by the Food Standards Agency for its Official Veterinary Surgeons and ancillary staff. With the support of the British Veterinary Association, I have written a course for veterinary undergraduates on the safe use of firearms. I am also responsible for instructing each course of trainee RSPCA Inspectors in the correct and safe use of captive-bolt equipment and .32 free-bullet humane killers. In addition to these regular bookings I run courses, on demand, for slaughtermen, knackermen, hunt servants, the State Veterinary Service, police forces and livestock farmers.

Outside the UK, I have been responsible for introducing new slaughter equipment (electrical and captive-bolt) to the meat industries of Brazil, Turkey, Taiwan, the Philippines, Eire and China. I have also taken part in seminars and organised practical training sessions within these countries. I have spoken on humane slaughter at conferences and veterinary meetings in Spain, Eire, Finland, Norway and Estonia. Outside the educational sphere, I have given evidence as an expert witness in cases of causing unnecessary suffering by inappropriate use of firearms, severe injury to abattoir personnel, and the animal welfare problems associated with an unlicensed abattoir.

My other area of expertise is that of livestock marketing. I have worked in both the dead-weight and live sectors of this industry, at one time working in two livestock markets, one of which I managed. Outside work I am involved with the organization and running of two annual livestock shows, being chairman of one, and I am a livestock steward at the Leicestershire Show. I also have a broad knowledge of livestock handling and transport; the handling, transport and slaughter of poultry; and the legislation relating to these areas.


The Humane Slaughter Association - Caring Beyond the Farm Gate

Around the world, millions of animals are killed for human consumption every day and it is important that slaughter, and associated transport and handling, are as humane as possible. There are many parts of the world where much could be achieved by improving the understanding of humane transport, marketing and slaughter. Consequently the HSA continues to expand its international activities.

Over the last 100 years the HSA has led the way and been responsible for many of the animal welfare improvements seen during transport, marketing and slaughter. The HSA’s first major project was aimed at replacing the pole-axe, a crude and inefficient implement used for stunning animals, with the captive-bolt stunner – a humane, mechanically-operated device. In the early 1920s it carried out an eight-month demonstration of the effectiveness of the captive-bolt stunner at a slaughterhouse in Islington, London. As a result of the HSA’s efforts, a bye-law requiring the use of humane stunners was adopted by 28 London boroughs, and later by 494 other UK local authorities.

The HSA has worked with local, national and international authorities to develop legislation to protect animal welfare and continues to do so today. The charity has also offered practical assistance in times of need, such as providing almost 500 captive-bolt stunners to licensed slaughtermen across the UK during the Second World War and assisting during the UK foot and mouth crises of 1967/68 and 2001.

The HSA is a leading source of support and funding for essential scientific research within its field. It has assisted the application of many advances into the working practices of the meat industry. The HSA helped to develop the first hand-held, low voltage electrical stunner for poultry; it arranged for the first high-throughput automatic poultry stunner to be trialled in the UK in 1960s; and it spearheaded the development of a prototype mobile slaughterhouse in the 1990s. More recently, the HSA has promoted the use of humane stunning equipment for farmed fish, while research projects have included the development of a new device for the humane killing of chickens in emergencies, research to assess dry electrical stunning systems for poultry, and on new, more humane, constant-current stunners and electrode designs for turkeys, ducks and geese in small-scale production.  

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 A Lasting Legacy

Since 1911, the HSA has built an international reputation for being a reliable, knowledgeable and practical organisation. Today, the HSA remains true to the vision of those early pioneers and believes high standards of animal welfare must continue beyond the farm gate. It is unique – the only UK charity totally dedicated to the humane treatment of all food animals, including cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry, fish and 'exotic' species such as deer, during transport, marketing and slaughter, or killing for welfare reasons and disease control.

Join Us

There is much more to do. However well cared for on the farm, animals are extremely vulnerable once they leave – during transport, at markets and up to the point of slaughter in abattoirs.

An estimated 70 billion farm animals a year are reared and killed for food globally. With a rising world population (now at over 7 billion) this is set to increase.

Our supporters have already helped us to deliver initiatives which have made a difference to millions of animals. Will you help us to continue to make that difference? By joining HSA and supporting our work, you become part of a more than century-long effort to make historic change – and a better world for animals.

To join the HSA or make a donation, see the HSA website https://www.hsa.org.uk/support