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Comments on the dilemma in the October issue: Ethical issues in the slaughterhouse
  1. Steven McCulloch


In the dilemma discussed in the October issue of In Practice, an Official Veterinarian (OV) is newly employed in a small- to medium-sized three-species abattoir. The OV’s attention is drawn to an experienced slaughterman who is shooting inaccurately and practising poor exsanguination technique. He has been under scrutiny already for failing to accurately place bolt shots in cattle. His other work is slipshod, but the business operator fears a counter accusation of prejudice (IP, October 2017, vol 39, pp 430-431). John Cranley says that the OV must instruct the business operator to replace the slaughterman without delay. The OV has a duty to acquire evidence and must report the case to the competent authority for further investigation. A full stun must be applied so that the animal does not regain consciousness before death.

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JOHN Cranley describes a situation where a slaughterman carries out suboptimal stunning related to conscientious objection. There may be a counter-accusation of prejudice if the Official Veterinarian (OV] reports the slaughterman to the business operator. The situation is no doubt sensitive, involving conscientious objection, presumably on religious grounds. Furthermore, the OV may be motivated to avoid the problem of a counter-accusation. However, the OV has a clear duty to uphold the welfare of animals under their care. Furthermore, this duty is reinforced by responsibilities under EC Regulation 1099/2009. Hence, the OV is duty-bound to instruct the business operator to replace the slaughterman to resolve the situation. In this respect, the OV is working within a deontological (ie, rules-based) framework. The OV should simply follow the legal and professional frameworks of the EC Regulation and the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons, which are aligned. Readers of In Practice were in agreement with this position, with 98 per cent of the 41 respondents voting to report the issue to the area veterinary manager.

Steven McCulloch

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