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Animal Equality Calls for the Application of 7 Measures to Reduce Extreme Suffering of Animals in Spain

The elimination of the exceptions that allow slaughter without stunning, at-home slaughter, and stunning for fish are just some of the demands.
October 15, 2021

In Spain in 2020, 906 million land animals were slaughtered, including cows, pigs, chickens, lambs, goats, rabbits and horses. Investigations carried out by Animal Equality over the last fifteen years have documented how many of them are killed while fully conscious, causing them completely avoidable suffering.

Exceptions to legal obligations, gaps in legislation and bad practices, allow this to happen every day in the country’s slaughterhouses. Therefore, Animal Equality urges that 7 legal modifications be made to prevent these events from occurring:

1: Elimination of the exceptions that allow the slaughter of animals without stunning

In the European Union, the law requires that animals be stunned before they die, however, there are religious exceptions (e.g. halal and kosher) that allow them to be euthanized while conscious. In Spain, 198 slaughterhouses, 28% of the 700 existing, use these exceptions to supply national demand, but mainly because it enables export to other countries that require religious sacrifice.

In Catalonia, according to data from the sector, almost 50% of lambs and more than 40% of cows and calves are slaughtered following these rites. Meat that is not exported is sold without warning consumers about the way the animals have been slaughtered. The law does not require information on the labeling of meat so many consumers are buying this meat without knowing it.

In December 2020, the Court of Justice of the European Union certified that the Member States are entitled to prohibit the slaughter of animals without stunning and not allow any exceptions in this regard. The ruling takes into account the latest techniques in reversible stunning, which makes religious freedom compatible and improves animal welfare.

In addition, 90% of European citizens are against slaughter techniques that cause suffering to animals and demand that stunning is mandatory and without exceptions, according to an opinion poll recently carried out by the Eurogroup for Animals.

For all of these reasons, we demand that the Government of Spain prohibit these exceptions.

2: Elimination of at-home slaughter

In Spain, “backyard slaughter” is common. European regulations, approved more than 25 years ago, allow these practices as long as the animal is stunned beforehand and there is veterinary supervision; conditions that, in most cases, are not met.

Animal Equality claims that these practices have no place in our legislation since the administration has no possibility of guaranteeing compliance with the rules.

3: Elimination of electrified water bath for stunning chickens

Millions of birds are slaughtered every year in the European Union while still conscious. The cause is the ineffectiveness of the electrified water bath as a stunning method. Animal Equality considers it necessary to eliminate this practice to avoid unnecessary pain and fear.

4: Elimination of carbon dioxide stunning method for pigs

The high concentrations of CO2 used as a form of stunning causes suffering and severe distress for 30 to 90 seconds before pigs lose consciousness. Carbon Dioxide stunning has been discouraged since 2005 and contradicts the requirements of even the European Food Safety Authority.

5: Elimination of animals exported to countries without slaughter regulations

Every year more than 2 million animals are exported outside the European Union and sent to countries where they do not receive any protection at the time of their slaughter.

Research carried out has documented animals in Spain slaughtered in the Middle East in ways that would be completely illegal in Europe. The European Union is responsible for the fate of these animals, therefore, Animal Equality demands the prohibition of export to destinations where their welfare cannot be guaranteed.

Currently, Spain is the number one European country exporting live cattle and the second, after Romania, for exporting sheep. In 2020, over 1 million cattle and sheep were exported mainly to countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

6: Installation of cameras in slaughterhouses with independent supervision

We demand the installation of cameras in Spanish slaughterhouses with independent oversight and access to veterinary inspection reports. This measure would allow animal protection organizations to help prevent acts of cruelty.

7: Application and assessment of stunning systems for fish 

One billion fish are farmed and killed in the European Union every year. Although there are already methods to stun them, they are not used and fish die while conscious or they suffocate.

Over the last year and according to data from the industry itself, 59,811 tons of seabass, trout and sea bream raised in fish farms were slaughtered in Spain.

European legislation does not include specific rules regarding the protection of fish at the time of their slaughter, but Regulation EC 1099/2009 itself allows member states to maintain or adopt national standards in this regard.

We request that those standards that oblige fish slaughterhouses to apply mechanical or electrical stunning systems such as those set out in Standard UNE 173300 or in the OIE Aquatic Animal Health Code be drawn up and implemented and their effectiveness assessed.

The enormous suffering that animals suffer in slaughterhouses can be avoided. We have been investigating Spanish slaughterhouses for more than 15 years, demonstrating the continued existence of bad practices and the use of exceptions and legal loopholes to continue abusing animals even in their last minutes of life. It is time to move forward as a society and reduce extreme animal suffering.

Javier Moreno, co-founder of Animal Equality

Animal Equality has launched a petition to collect signatures to achieve the legal advances necessary to reduce the extreme suffering suffered by millions of animals each year in slaughterhouses.


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