The catching and transport of birds prior to slaughter can cause considerable pain and distress. Each catcher will hold several birds upside down by their legs and cram them into crates which are then loaded onto lorries. Dislocated hips, broken wings and legs, and bruising are common occurrences. The process of catching, loading, transport and unloading causes serious injury and even death to a significant number of broilers, the amount may be as high as 18 to 35 million across the EU(2). Transport to slaughter can be a considerable distance and the birds may be exposed to extremes of weather. Cold, heat, stress, suffocation and shock all take their toll.
Broiler chickens are slaughtered at just 6-7 weeks of age (a chicken's natural lifespan is around 7 years). 873 million broiler chickens were slaughtered in the UK in 2012 (855 million in 2011)(1).
On reaching the slaughterhouse, broiler chickens are removed from their crates and hung upside down shackled by their feet to a moving line whilst still fully conscious. Their heads and neck are dragged through an electrically charged water bath designed to stun the birds, rendering them unconscious. The moving line then takes the birds to an automatic neck cutter. Birds are then bled before entering a scalding tank to make the plucking easier. Broilers often experience pain and struggle while hung in shackles, and they may suffer during the slaughter process. It is estimated that over 50 million broilers across the European Union may be slaughtered while fully conscious(2). It is essential that a sufficient stunning current is used and that both carotid arteries (the major blood supplies to the brain) are cut to reduce the risk of birds regaining consciousness during bleed-out and subsequently entering the scalding tank whilst still alive.
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