Charles Mason - Technical Director, Humane Slaughter Association

  • Webinar starts at 8:00 pm on Tue 26th September, 2017
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This presentation will provide essential information on humane use, safety and maintenance of captive-bolt stunning equipment for those who may have to use this equipment for humane slaughter or euthanasia of animals.  Millions of animals are reared for food and the slaughter of these animals must be carried out in a way that causes no unnecessary pain or suffering. The captive-bolt stunner was one of the first specialist instruments developed to stun animals humanely prior to slaughter.  It is now used throughout the world in countries where the principles of humane killing have been widely accepted.  Although used mainly for stunning cattle, sheep and goats, it is also employed to a lesser extent for pigs, horses and farmed deer, and for emergency euthanasia.

Captive-bolt stunners became commercially available in 1922, replacing the pole-axe, which was widely used by the meat and livestock industry to stun adult cattle and pigs prior to slaughter. As a result of the HSA’s and others’ efforts, pre-slaughter stunning of adult cattle and pigs, using captive-bolt equipment, became mandatory in the UK in 1933.  Today, the modified and improved captive-bolt stunner is one of most versatile pieces of stunning equipment, both within abattoirs and out in the field.

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; and
  • the importance, and health and safety implications, of secure transport and storage.

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

Further reading: HSA Guidance Notes No.4 – Captive-Bolt Stunning of Livestock.  Available at https://www.hsa.org.uk/publications/online-guides.

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.

 

 

 

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