Welfare risks of repeated application of on-farm killing methods for poultry

JE Martin, DA Sandercock, V Sandilands, J Sparrey, L Baker, NHC Sparks, DEF McKeegan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
52 Downloads (Pure)


During poultry production, some birds are killed humanely on farm, usually because they are ill or injured. Recent European Union (EU) legislation has restricted the number of birds that can be killed by manual neck dislocation to 70 birds per person per day. We examined whether this limit is meaningful by investigating the effects of repeated application of two methods of killing (neck dislocation and a percussive method, the CashPoultry Killer). Twelve male stockworkers each killed 100 birds (broilers, laying hens, or turkeys) at a fixed rate with each method. Both methods were highly successful, and reflex and behaviour measures confirmed they caused rapid loss of brain function. Importantly, there was no evidence of reduced performance with time/bird number up to 100 birds with either method. The Cash Poultry Killer caused a more rapid death, but it was prone to technical difficulties with repeated use. Neck dislocation has the important advantage that it can be performed immediately with no equipment, which may make it preferable in some situations. We present the first evidence that, at the killing rates tested, there was no evidence to justify the current EU number limit for performance of neck dislocation to kill poultry on farm.
Original languageEnglish
Article number39
Pages (from-to)39 - 52
Number of pages14
Issue number3
Early online date15 Mar 2018
Publication statusFirst published - 15 Mar 2018

Bibliographical note



  • Animal welfare
  • Captive bolt
  • Cervical dislocation
  • Killing
  • Poultry
  • Reflexes


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