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    First-Ever Standards for Humane Slaughter of Chickens in China

    Animal welfare activist says new guidelines are a milestone.
    Sep 01, 2016#ethics#policy

    Authorities in Shandong province, eastern China, have approved guidelines for the welfare of slaughtered chickens, Qilu Evening News reported on Sunday.

    Though the guidelines are nonbinding and regional, they are the first industry standard for chicken slaughter in China. Shandong is the largest chicken producer in the country, accommodating more than 20 percent of the industry. 

    According to the guidelines, chickens in Shandong should be slaughtered in a more humane way from now on. The new standards suggest that measures be taken to reduce the amount of stress placed on birds, throughout their capture, transportation, loading, and off-loading.

    “The guidelines are a milestone for Chinese animal welfare,” said Sun Quanhui, a senior science adviser at nongovernmental organization World Animal Protection. Sun told Sixth Tone that slaughtering chickens humanely not only improves their welfare, but also improves the quality of the meat, while careless slaughter methods can cause injuries such as fractures, which in turn negatively affect the product.

    The new guidelines recommend that a chicken not be held by a single wing or a leg, but rather handled using tools, or at the very least be held by both wings. They also state that transport should take less than three hours, and that vehicles should be clean and temperature-controlled.

    In addition, the document proposes that before chickens are slaughtered, they be allowed to rest and recuperate. Finally, they should be anesthetized with gas before being killed.

    The guidelines were written by Sun Jingxin, a food science professor at Qingdao Agricultural University and no relation to Sun Quanhui. He told The Beijing News that he started working on the project in 2009 because though the industry was very large in Shandong, it lacked standards. Sun also admitted that a more humane slaughter process could lead to higher costs for poultry producers.

    But Sun Quanhui said the guidelines may make Shandong’s chickens more competitive on the world market in the long run. Many countries have similar guidelines for the slaughter of animals and won’t allow products on their markets that don’t follow these rules, he explained.

    Chang Zhigang, head of animal health and welfare at the Chinese Veterinary Medical Association, told Sixth Tone that the nonbinding nature of the guidelines makes it hard to say whether companies will adhere to them. He speaks from experience, having previously worked on an earlier set of guidelines for the humane treatment of animals that was also nonbinding. “We set standards with companies and corporations in order to make humane slaughter more practical, and to encourage them to advocate and promote the guidelines,” he said. “But whether the standards are applied is hard to say.”

    Chang said China currently has no mandatory regulations or rules for farm animal welfare, only standards. The country does, however, have a wildlife protection law, but this only applies to wild animals.

    Despite his optimism about the new guidelines, Sun Quanhui said a lot remains to be done. For one, the standards should be applied nationwide. “There is also the raising process antibiotics, illegal additives, and diseases, for example that requires our attention,” he added.

    Qilu’s report did not specify on which day the guidelines were passed.

    (Header image: A worker prepares to kill a chicken at a slaughterhouse in Shanghai, April 12, 2014. Yang Yi/Sixth Tone)