Organic chicken slaughter processes in question

The Soil Association has defended the slaughter processes of certified organic poultry after concerns were expressed by the RSPCA over the treatment of chickens in abattoirs.

The RSPCA is questioning how humane and effective the acts of ‘live shackling’ and ‘stunning’ are; methods routinely used during the slaughtering of millions of chickens in the UK, including some organic. The charity argues that the live shackling process is not immune to error and warns that the electric shocks can sometimes fail to knock the birds unconscious, leading to concerns over issues of animal welfare and sentience. Weighing in on the conversation, The Food Standards Agency has added its doubts over whether using live shackle lines is the most humane way of stunning poultry.

No system of farming has higher levels of animal welfare than Soil Association organic

While many organic chickens are gassed in abattoirs prior to slaughter – an alternative considered by some to be more humane – the British Poultry Council says it cannot favour one method over another ‘while the legislation still approves two’. Sophie Elwes, poultry welfare expert from the RSPCA, points to two gaps in the system of ‘stunning’: “If they [the chickens] have missed the stun and missed the neck cut they will go into the scalding tank alive,” she warns.

Speaking on behalf of the Soil Association, Chris Atkinson, head of standards, says SA organic certification continues to provide the maximum reassurance that the highest welfare standards possible are being met: “No system of farming has higher levels of animal welfare than Soil Association organic. Gas killing and electric-water-bath stunning are both permitted in Soil Association certified abattoirs and we would expect all chickens to be completely bled out and therefore insensible to pain before arriving at the scald tank.”