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Macroscopic Examination of Multiple-Shot Cattle Heads—An Animal Welfare Due Diligence Tool for Abattoirs Using Penetrating Captive Bolt Devices?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Article number328
Number of pages9
Issue number6
Early online date6 Jun 2019
DateAccepted/In press - 4 Jun 2019
DateE-pub ahead of print - 6 Jun 2019
DatePublished (current) - Jun 2019


Ideally, the application of a penetrating captive bolt device to render cattle immediately unconscious prior to slaughter would be 100% effective. Unfortunately, due to various factors this is not always the case. This paper examined, as an initial proof of concept, 12 bovine heads which had received more than one shot from a penetrating captive bolt, collected from various abattoirs within the United Kingdom. The heads were frozen to facilitate splitting on the medial plane to prevent distortion of soft tissue and each sagittal section was examined macroscopically to ascertain if this method could be used to determine the reasons for repeated stun attempts. In 10 out of 12 heads, shot placement was the determining factor, in one other head it was felt that anatomical variation was the reason and the twelfth head demonstrated signs of gun malfunction as the likely cause. This work provides evidence for a larger trial to facilitate the production of guidance for the abattoir industry, the Animal Welfare Officer and regulators on the examination of heads as part of an investigation of failures of a mechanical stunning system and to provide training material for slaughter staff tasked with effectively stunning cattle.

    Research areas

  • Animal Welfare, Abattoir, Animal Welfare Officer, Captive Bolt, Cattle, Due diligence, Multiple stun attempts

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    Licence: CC BY


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