gentle handling of the rabbits in containers and individually) (ToR‐3). Three main approaches were used to develop this opinion: i) literature search, ii) expert knowledge elicitation (EKE) for the selection of indicators for phase 2 and 3 (stunning and bleeding) and iii) expert opinion through working group discussion. Rabbit meat is one of the most consumed meats in the world. Cessation of bleeding is the indicator that has the highest sensitivity and specificity and is easy to use, whereas the other four indicators are either less sensitive/specific or difficult to recognise. Head‐only electrical stunning is widely used in commercial rabbit slaughter plants. It is calculated as the number of truly unconscious animals considered unconscious based on the outcome of the indicator (D in Table B.1) divided by the total number of truly unconscious animals (B + D), multiplied by 100. In the latter case, one hand is holding its neck and shoulder such that the ears are tucked away from the head. The use of animal‐based indicators can be regarded in the same way as the use of a diagnostic test with either a positive or negative outcome. The Humane Slaughter Association (HSA) supports research, training, and development to improve the welfare of livestock during transport and slaughter.It provides technical information about handling and slaughter on its website, training for farmer staff and vets, advice to governments and industry, and funding of science and technology to make slaughter more humane. The good maintenance of the facility and the equipment will allow to have a forklift functioning smoothly on an even floor that will lead to proper handling. It is also advisable to ensure that the doors of the waiting area are properly closed (Bourin, personal, 2019). The literature search was carried out to identify peer‐reviewed scientific evidence providing information on the elements requested by the ToRs (i.e. Grandin made a new assessment of Agriprocessors, stating, “The undercover video clearly showed that when they think nobody is looking, they do bad things in this plant.” Relevant origin specifications have been reported in the outcome tables, developed by processes of the slaughter (see Section 3.10). Distress implies an external and usually temporary cause of great physical or mental strain and stress, such as extreme anxiety or fear, inability to cope with environmental conditions, sadness, pain or the state of being in danger or urgent need. They were done for each of three phases in the process: immediately following stunning, at the time of neck cutting and during bleeding. Loss of muscle tone can be recognised from the completely relaxed legs, floppy ears and relaxed jaws. During the first 10–12 postnatal days, the kits have only a limited capacity for independent thermoregulation, and they huddle together covering themselves with the nest material by crawling under it (Hudson and Distel, 1982; Bautista et al., 2008). From all of the above indicators, vocalisations seem to be the only practical one in the slaughterhouse. ABMs: no specific ABMs have been identified to assess distress. Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. To prevent rabbits to experience severe welfare consequences such as pain and fear: The ranking of the hazards in terms of severity, magnitude and frequency of the welfare consequences of the rabbits at slaughtering should be done in order to be able to prioritise actions and improve the procedure at slaughter. Staff carrying out tasks associated with live animals should be rotated to other duties at regular intervals to safeguard rabbit welfare. For the first key stage (just after stunning), if the animal shows any of the signs of consciousness (red box), then appropriate intervention should be applied. As this opinion will be used by the European Commission to address the OIE standards, more methods for slaughter were considered than those that are compliant with Council Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009. appropriate design and maintenance of facilities and equipment. Thirst occurs either when there is a fall in blood volume or when the tonicity of the of interstitial fluid increases. Conditions that will induce severe pain and suffering are e.g. For each question, the experts were asked to give a reasonable range, e.g. They can act as preventive measure, but if not applied first, can be acting as corrective measures for the hazard and the welfare consequence (cold stress, see Section 220.127.116.11). The containers should be located as close as possible to the point of stunning. in containers, manually or in a restraint device) is provided. According to Cavani and Petracci (2004), rabbits lose 3–6% of body weight during the first 12 h of fasting. It is calculated as the number of dead animals considered dead based on the outcome of the indicator (E in Table B.2) divided by the total number of truly dead animals (E + G), multiplied by 100. Via Carlo Magno 1A, 43126 Working off-campus? The outcome tables are considered the main result of this scientific opinion, since all the collected information is presented there concisely. Of the recommended indicators above the dashed line, a minimum of two indicators relevant to each key stage should be employed for an effective monitoring of the process. Caucci et al. Proper restraint of the animal and presentation of its head are vital to achieving this. Rabbits cannot easily lose heat through evaporation, e.g. Death should be confirmed by ensuring the presence of signs of death. Rafel et al. When discussing these categories, it was agreed that the ‘origin’ can be explained further by detailing what actions from the staff or features from equipment and facilities can cause the hazard. Finally, outcome tables (see Section 3.10) link each hazard to the relevant welfare consequences (and related indicators and mitigation measures), hazard's origins and hazard's preventive and corrective measures. Effective application of a non‐penetrative captive bolt (e.g. Operator rotation to avoid fatigue. The opinion should cover the following slaughter processes and issues: arrival of the animals at the abattoir, unloading, lairage, handling and moving of the animals (free‐moving animals only), restraint, stunning, bleeding, slaughter of pregnant animals (free‐moving animals only), emergency killing (reasons and conditions under which animals must be killed outside the normal slaughter line), unacceptable methods, and any particular procedures or practices on welfare grounds. (1986), rabbits can no longer regulate their internal temperature above 35°C and heat prostration sets in, while at 40°C, considerable panting and salivation occurred. The activation of the protective nociceptive system induces the animal to experience pain. In addition, spontaneous blinking and vocalisation can be used; Key stage 2 (just prior to neck cutting): corneal or palpebral reflex, breathing and righting reflex. The purpose of this opinion was to assess the risks associated to the on‐farm killing of rabbits. Restraint applied for head‐only electrical stunning aims to ensure the electrodes span the brain (illustrated under Section 3.2.1) and that applied for captive bolt stunning is intended to ensure proper placement and firing of the gun (illustrated under Section 3.2.3). The methodology involves indicator selection based on their ease of use, their specificity and their sensitivity. Rough handling can cause pain and fear due to injuries that would appear as main carcass defects. completeness of hazard origins, preventive and corrective measures on the one side and welfare consequences and indicators on the other side). Regarding the time of transport, some authors showed that in Spain, on a sample of 21 hauliers, the mean time was 154 min (Range: 20–600 mins), 14% of them lasted less than 30 min and 19% lasted more than 180 min. The operator may resort to catching the animal roughly, by the head, neck or legs, increasing the risk of injury. What is the proper humane way to slaughter and gut a bunny rabbit for consumption? The uncertainty about the estimates obtained through the EKE was also estimated: Sp and Se in terms of a 90% certainty interval, and Easiness as a percentage of certainty relative to the level of agreement between experts. in small abattoirs or during on‐farm slaughter. (2010) conducted a study in order to assess the preslaughter conditions of rabbits in a commercial chain and to determine the effect of journey duration (short: < 220 min; medium: 220–320 min; long: > 320 min) and lairage duration (short: < 134 min; medium: 134–235 min; long: > 235 min) on mortality and carcass quality. In both slaughter with and without stunning, death should be confirmed before dressing of the carcass. The first two figures present the toolboxes related to slaughter with stunning. In case of 30 min at 20.0°C, the rectal temperature of kits drops from 37.7°C to 32.7°C (Cardasis and Sinclair, 1972). On the basis of this information, so‐called ‘flow charts’ were produced for each stunning method, to support an indicator‐based decision process (see methodology in chapter 18.104.22.168 and results in chapter 3.6.3). In this sense, ‘unload immediately’ and ‘reduce waiting time to unloading and lairage’ are important actions to reduce or mitigate the welfare consequences caused by a hazard but they are not measures aimed at cancelling the hazard. This practice may contribute to reducing the incidence of faecal contamination of the carcass which may occur during gastrointestinal tract removal as well as reducing stress during transportation. all performed checks resulted in outcomes of unconsciousness (green box), then it can be proceeded to the third key stage, during bleeding. No prevention/correction measures have been identified other than redesign of the shackle line to avoid this hazard. When use of some indicators is not feasible and the hazard is present, the related welfare consequences should be assumed to be experienced by the rabbits. They were further asked to state their judgement of probability that this range includes the unknown true value. The legislation does not require rabbits to be rendered unconscious prior to being suspended for slaughter. The scientific opinion focuses on the identification of hazards leading to negative rabbit welfare consequences at slaughter. Petracci et al. Table 9 here below shows an overview of hazards during different processes in Phase 1. For the European Commission mandate, slaughter processes were assessed from the arrival of rabbits in containers until their death, and grouped in three main phases: pre‐stunning (including arrival, unloading of containers from the truck, lairage, handling/removing of rabbits from containers), stunning (including restraint) and bleeding (including bleeding following stunning and bleeding during slaughter without stunning). Animal Production and Health Series, Effect of lairage duration on rabbit welfare and meat quality, Aversion to the inhalation of nitrogen and carbon dioxide mixtures compared to high concentrations of carbon dioxide for stunning rabbits, Halal slaughter and electrical stunning in rabbits: effect on welfare and muscle characteristics. The ease of use was assessed for each key stage separately as the animals are in different postures or locations, which may affect access. Regarding ease of use, questions were asked on how easily the indicators are applied and checked during the stunning and slaughter process using three categories: easy, moderate and difficult (to apply). On the other hand, ineffectively stunned animals and those recovering consciousness at all key stages will retain or recover certain levels of muscle tone, manifested as stiff (upright) ears and jaws, and righting reflex (e.g. To reduce welfare risks due to poor stunning, it is important to assess the state of consciousness in order to detect the animals that are not properly stunned or recover consciousness after stunning. The following paragraphs are based on expert opinion and informal contact with food business operators. Julio Alvarez, Dominique Joseph Bicout, Paolo Calistri, Klaus Depner, Julian Ashley Drewe, Bruno Garin‐Bastuji, Jose Luis Gonzales Rojas, Christian Gortázar Schmidt, Miguel Ángel Miranda Chueca, Virginie Michel, Søren Saxmose Nielsen, Helen Clare Roberts, Liisa Helena Sihvonen, Hans Spoolder, Karl Stahl, Antonio Velarde Calvo, Arvo Viltrop and Christoph Winckler. In addition, a list of the main identified hazards that could occur during the process as well as their welfare consequences was included. COLUMN ‘WELFARE CONSEQUENCES OCCURRING TO THE RABBITS DUE TO THE HAZARD’: this lists the welfare consequences to the rabbits due to the hazards mentioned. Petracci et al. This opinion on the killing of rabbits for human consumption (‘slaughtering’) responds to two mandates: one from the European Parliament (EP) and the other from the European Commission. In all cases, restraint must be as short as possible. Neither the time to onset of unconsciousness nor the time to onset of death in rabbits slaughtered without stunning is reported in the literature. [0–100]. The information about the indicators for the state of consciousness in rabbits is presented separately in the following chapter 3.7.2. It is indeed clear that the duration of a phase/step affects the effects of the hazards. Heartbeat: Onset of death leads to permanent absence of heart beat, which can be ascertained physically by using a stethoscope where possible. provide good ventilation to avoid heat stress), 2) the prevention/correction of pain and fear (e.g. Description: This refers to the situation that the only option to prevent the hazard is to change the method or to try to reduce the consequences of the hazard on the welfare of the rabbits (see mitigation measures to the welfare consequences, Section 3.6.1). The hazards identified during electrical stunning, relevant welfare consequences and related indicators, hazards’ origins, preventive and corrective measures are reported in Table 22. In fact, failure to induce proper stunning and therefore unconsciousness, or recovery of consciousness following stunning will lead to animals being conscious during further processing. In buildings, the ambient temperature and other atmospheric conditions are controlled to a certain extent, whereas this is not regulated in outdoor systems. This ToR also addresses the selection of indicators for unconsciousness and death for the EP mandate. In Sections 3.1–3.3, the relevant slaughter processes are described in three parts. As explained above, this scientific opinion will respond to the ToRs from both the mandate from the EP and that of the EC. Some animals may be killed if the blow is too severe, which is not a welfare problem. Specific hazards were identified in the case of certain categories of rabbits, such as long haired animals. Process of slaughtering to which it applies: Restraint for slaughter without stunning. As it can be seen in Figure 6, poor design of the electrode and/or wrong positioning of the head may result in the eyes of rabbits being injured (physical damage and sometimes rupture of the eyeball) before the onset of unconsciousness. The gas concentration is too low to render all rabbits unconscious within the exposure time or to prevent recovery of consciousness during bleeding. All the hazards lead to pain and fear, some of them also to distress and, in the case of bleeding following stunning, also to consciousness; nine of them have staff as origin (ToR‐1). ‘Management’ measures mean decisions to be made or resources to be put in place by personnel with responsibility or legal obligation for animal welfare. The accuracy of the blow and force delivered to the skull would vary according to the operators’ fitness, skill levels and attitude (European Commission, 2017). Mitigating measures are to identify and eliminate the source of fear, where possible. The heat stress induces physiological changes e.g. Processes of slaughtering to which it applies: bleeding following stunning (on a proportion of rabbits), bleeding during slaughter without stunning (100% of rabbits). The Committee proposed that the setting of minimum standards for the protection of farm rabbits could be assisted by an independent scientific opinion from EFSA. When monitoring the effectiveness of stunning, it is common to look for outcomes that indicate unconsciousness. staff and equipment). To facilitate the selection of the most appropriate indicators for monitoring the efficacy of stunning, EFSA developed a methodology in a series of opinions on monitoring procedures at slaughter (EFSA AHAW Panel,2013c, d, e–f). In addition, spontaneous blinking and vocalisation can be used. Ventilation for means of transport by road and temperature monitoring. If not followed by adequate measures correcting the hazard, a welfare consequence will persist, until the animal is unconscious or dead. A potential indicator for dehydration is a dry skin, but this is practically impossible to examine on live rabbit at slaughter, and not necessarily easy to evaluate post‐mortem either. The mandate requests to define animal‐based indicators that can be used to assess welfare performance. For the other indicators, the specificity and sensitivity were judged only once. This increases to about 8–12% at 36–48 h. Cachexia (loss of weight, muscle atrophy, fatigue, weakness and significant loss of appetite) is an indicator for prolonged hunger at the farm. Staff should be trained to sharpen knife routinely and perform prompt and accurate neck cutting. These include, for example, the position of the animal relative to the assessor, the assessor's access to the animal and the line speed. This definition is used worldwide. Blinking response to touching the eyeball (EFSA. The average value was then used for the final judgement, as follows. If the hazard still occurs, the line speed should be reduced. For the European Commission mandate, slaughter processes were assessed from the arrival of rabbits in containers until their death, and grouped in three main phases: pre‐stunning (including arrival, unloading of containers from the truck, lairage, handling/removing of rabbits from containers), stunning (including restraint) and bleeding (including bleeding following stunning and bleeding during slaughter without stunning). Cold stress has a less significant effect on rabbit welfare compared to heat stress. Rabbit farming for meat production is of importance worldwide, including in the EU where rabbits are the second most farmed species in terms of numbers. Handling refers to removal of animals from the containers for the purpose of restraining, stunning and slaughter. If you do everything by the rules, the carcass will have a pink appearance in this case. Estimates for sensitivity, ease of use and associated uncertainties can be found in Tables. It has been shown that the quantity is about twice as much as the dry matter consumed. Use the link below to share a full-text version of this article with your friends and colleagues. To support the interpretation, following classes are used: 0% ≤ certainty ≤ 20% – low/20% < certainty < 50% – medium/50% ≤ certainty ≤ 100% – high, European Food Safety Authority, Council Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009 defines slaughtering as ‘the killing of animals intended for human consumption’ and the related operations are ‘operations that take place in the context and at the location where the animals are slaughtered.’ In the context of this opinion, the operations are grouped in phases. However, depending on the origin of physical or mental distress, ABMs for other welfare consequences such as pain or fear or thermal stress, can be applied. Processes of slaughtering to which it applies: inversion of conscious animals for percussive blow and slaughter without stunning. In this regard, a previous opinion published by EFSA AHAW Panel, 2013c–f provides guidance to key stages of monitoring and indicators of consciousness in other food animal species. In domestic rabbits, there is a close relationship between levels of solid food and drinking water intake. Voltage should be sufficient to overcome resistance in the pathway created by different tissues. To support the interpretation of the outcomes, the experts also considered the uncertainty related to their assessment (see Section 2.2.5). Humans experience different phases of hunger. An example where both occur together is when animals do not have access to water during hot weather with the worst animal welfare consequences. (2016) was 120 s’. Under different conditions (farmed, lab or pet rabbits), when exposed to different possible threats (noises, presence of man or unknown operators, introduction of new animals), rabbits have been observed running away into a hiding place or into a corner of the cage with their head, or freezing, or attacking with teeth and claws (Mullan and Main, 2006; Crowell‐Davis, 2007; Verga et al., 2007). wetting of the heads, selecting materials and design that offers least electrical resistance). In addition, spontaneous blinking and vocalisation can be used but they should not be relied upon solely. Lack of skilled operators, SHORT bleeding time, incomplete section of both arteries; lack of monitoring of death before being dressed. They also do that in their subsequent publication (Rommers et al., 2015) and it seems the measure is still valid. Process of slaughtering to which it applies: unloading from the trucks, movement containers from lairage to the point of removal of rabbits for stunning. Temperature and humidity can be registered at the crate level and recording systems can monitor the climatic conditions in the area and allow alarm warning when the values are outside the thermoneutrality zone of the rabbit (15–25°C and 60–65% humidity; DEFRA, 2005; Verga et al., 2007, see Table 7). Staff training, proper restraint of the rabbit. To address the ToRs, experts identified the origin of each hazard (ToR‐1) and related preventive and corrective measures (ToR‐3), along with the possible welfare consequences of the hazards and relevant indicators (ToR‐2). The mandate from the EP asks EFSA to indicate the most suitable stunning and killing methods for rabbits and define indicators to assess unconsciousness and death of the animals for the stunning and bleeding phases. At the abattoir, animals were unloaded almost immediately (the average waiting time before unloading was 4.5 min) (Buil et al., 2004). Luzi et al. Feasible indicators are physical damages to the muscles and skin (e.g. In the lairage area, temperature variations can be significant and depend on the time of day and the season. times (in seconds) to recovery were rhythmic breathing 35 (11), corneal reflex 26 (10) and response to nose prick 44 (18) s. Since stun‐to‐stick (bleed) interval practiced in slaughterhouses is less than 10 s, Anil et al. During the period lasting between catching at the farm and slaughter at the abattoir rabbits are kept without feed and water. An overview of the origin category(ies) pertaining to each of the hazards identified in the sections above is reported in the following tables (Tables 11–13). The Beta distribution was used to calculate the median and 90% uncertainty range of the common judgement. Bolt position at the intersection of lines from each eye to the opposite ear (Source European Commission. Preventive measures that apply to several hazards (e.g. In addition, if brain damage is insufficient or the bolt does not reach the relevant structures (either because of insufficient penetration depth, placement or orientation), the animal may remain conscious or show a shallow depth of concussion. Restraining for head‐only electrical stunning is manual and involves holding the rabbit with one hand supporting its belly, and the other hand guides the head into the stunning tongs or electrodes by holding its ears. The hazards listed in this section apply to conscious rabbits before stunning or when ineffectively stunned or when they recover consciousness after being stunned. Excessive fear may cause chronic stress, which affects animal welfare and health (Forkman et al., 2007). During slaughter without stunning, the time to onset of unconsciousness and death will be prolonged. The answers of the experts were aggregated afterwards to construct the common uncertainty distribution. However, distress is a welfare status difficult to describe, assess and quantify accurately. The hazards that potentially appear during slaughtering can be prevented or corrected by putting in place structural or managerial actions. Process of slaughtering to which it applies: lairage. Catching and robust restraint of conscious animals for neck cutting causes pain, fear and distress, especially when animals are hung upside‐down by the legs in shackles. In this case, the aim of the indicator assessment is to identify the welfare problem, and therefore, indicators with a high specificity is preferred (more detail Appendix B). At lairage, in cold weather, it is advisable to reduce the gap between the rows of containers to limit draughts without preventing the movement of employees between crates. This Act requires the proper treatment and humane handling of all food animals slaughtered in USDA inspected slaughter plants. Only for the indicator ‘tonic‐clonic seizure’, it was decided to assess the sensitivity and specificity for each key stage as it was agreed that these parameters will change noticeably during the slaughter process. (2004) performed a survey on rabbit transport in Spanish abattoirs from December 2003 to March 2004 to determine the parts of the process that most compromise the animal's welfare. Definition: Within the shackling procedure, inappropriate shackling of conscious rabbits can occur after ineffective electrical or mechanical stunning, slaughter without stunning, and when the shackles are too narrow or too wide or when rabbits are hung by one leg. Initially, there is an enthusiasm for food, but as time progresses hunger changes to gnawing emptiness whilst feeling weak, lethargic and more sensitive to cold. In particular, the information about sensitivity and specificity of the indicators was elicited by asking respondents to estimate, for each indicator, the proportion of truly conscious and the proportion of truly unconscious animals that would be considered conscious or unconscious, based on the outcome of the indicator. Use humane methods of slaughter. More detail is provided in Appendix C. To support the interpretation, following classes are used: 80% ≤ uncertainty ≤ 100% is regarded as high uncertainty; 50% < uncertainty < 80% is regarded as medium uncertainty; 0% ≤ uncertainty ≤ 50% is regarded as low certainty. Delphi method: this is an iterative survey including feedback from the involved experts over successive rounds. The outcome table related to each process during pre‐stunning is reported in Section 3.10 (Tables 8–21). Rabbits will experience the negative welfare consequences of the hazards they are subjected to only in case they are conscious. Electric stunning: phase 1, phase 2, phase 3, Mechanical stunning: phase 1 phase 2, phase 3, CaBo = ‘Captive bolt mechanical stunning’, Phase 1 = ‘Immediately after stunning, before shackling’. In case of slaughter without stunning or insufficient stunned rabbits are subjected to compression of their legs during shackling. Mitigating actions are to provide adequate ventilation, unload the truck immediately and bring the rabbits to a thermal neutral zone. The space allowance is directly linked to the stocking density in containers, which is usually expressed in number of animals, area (cm2) per kg body weight or live weight in kg/m2. The Hopper Popper is the Best method for a Fast, Humane and Quiet way to Dispatch of a meat rabbit. Emptying of the guts is mainly causing weight loss over the first 4–6 h (Lambertini et al., 2006). In still conscious animals, this may lead to pain and fear due to manual restraint and inversion. 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