RDA: Killing an animal should never be taken for granted

More than 90 percent of Dutch people like to eat a piece of meat. But eating meat is like killing animals. An ‘abrasive question’, says Franck Meijboom from the Council for Animal Affairs (RDA). With the statement released on Thursday, the RDA aims to shake off the embarrassment on this issue.

In the statement, Meijboom and others discuss five different reasons for killing animals. These include the prevention or control of nuisances (eg pests), the elimination of suffering (eg pets or pets), failure to meet the intended objective (eg day-old roosters), the control of animal diseases (f (eg African swine fever and bird flu) and the benefits to humans (meat consumption).

Man’s relationship with animals is changing. That was the reason why the RDA in early 2019 released the report ‘The Condition of the Animal’. This changing relationship is also reflected in how society views the killing of animals. ‘Animal welfare and the value of wildlife are gaining an increasingly prominent place in the public debate,’ the authors of the statement argue.

At the same time, it turns out that killing animals is a broad and unpleasant topic. That discomfort hinders a rational conversation. According to the view, killing animals, for example in connection with animal disease control, is no longer a matter of course. Alternatives are available or conceivable in all cases, but almost always raise new questions about practicality, economic costs and animal welfare.

Example of bird flu

As an example, the authors zoom in on highly pathogenic bird flu. Wild populations are an important source of this and their monitoring could be improved. Instead of killing uninfected flocks within a radius of 1 kilometer, these farms could also be quarantined with intensive monitoring for clinical signs. Vaccination is mentioned as an alternative to killing. And that vaccination of wild bird populations is worth considering.

According to the authors of the view, killing animals should never be taken for granted because an animal has self-esteem. Every situation requires careful consideration. The experts led by Meijboom therefore argue for the development of more decision support staff and for updating the existing ones. An assessment framework, such as the decision trees for killing piglets and pigs, can help to make informed decisions about life or death.

In addition, the point of view speaks for thinking less from the system and more from the individual animal. According to the authors, thinking in the system can stand in the way of safeguarding animal welfare and killing fewer animals. Finally, they point out that the killing of animals must be carried out with the utmost care. The discomfort an animal experiences in a slaughterhouse is determined by the professionalism of the employees, the time available and the company culture.

last day of life

Because most animals in the Netherlands are killed for meat consumption, the view sets aside a separate chapter for the last day of life. The chapter focuses in particular on the welfare of pigs and chickens – the largest in slaughter numbers. Important parameters here are transport time, temperature and animal condition. The point of view also requires that special attention be paid to the possibility of slaughtering on the farm.

The RDA also concludes that daily contact between livestock farmers and their employees with the animals can ensure that they can better manage stress on the last day of life. For example, if someone walks through the trails every day, the animals get used to humans and they have less stress the last day, according to the RDA.

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