Hidden video recordings from slaughterhouses in different Swiss cantons have repeatedly brought severe violations against animal welfare to light in the past. The recordings showed for example mistreatment in the form of extremely rough handling of sheep, pigs, calves and other animals as well as painful killing through improper and thus inadequate anesthesia, see for example the two criminal charges against two facilities in the canton of Vaud filed by TIR in October 2018.
Between January 2018 and March 2019, the Federal Food Chain Unit (FFCU) conducted a nationwide investigation in 67 slaughter facilities throughout Switzerland. The investigation showed that in many slaughterhouses, and in particular in those with low or medium capacity, the success of the anesthesia and the bleeding was not correctly monitored or not monitored at all. The FFCU’s report provides evidence of systematic shortcomings regarding anesthesia and bleeding of animals.
According to current legislation, slaughterhouses must be inspected by officials. However, these inspections mainly relate to the hygiene provisions in the field of food safety. While the health of the animals is visually checked upon their arrival at the slaughterhouse and the dead carcasses are thoroughly examined to ensure that they are fit and safe for human consumption, the delicate process of killing, which is relevant from an animal welfare point of view, is almost entirely within the responsibility of the slaughterhouse operators. Although the latter are obliged to document and carry out self-checks, an independent supervision does not take place. Only the documentation is officially inspected on a random sample basis.
With that in mind, it is not surprising that the above described severe violations concerning anesthesia and bleeding of the animals are not a rare exception. With regard to the immense suffering caused to the animals through inadequate anesthesia or bleeding, the reliance on self-control by slaughterhouses as a basis for enforcement for the veterinary authorities is insufficient. The slaughterhouses need to be controlled independently – either by means of video surveillance or by a competent official on site.
Therefore, in March 2020, Daniel Jositsch, professor of criminal law, submitted a motion to the Council of States for the introduction of compulsory video surveillance in slaughterhouses. Moreover, at the beginning of May 2020, Meret Schneider, co-managing director of Sentience Politics, submitted a motion to the National Council for the introduction of a control of the anesthesia and bleeding success by a veterinary official on site.
In the meantime, the Federal Council has taken position regarding Jositsch’s motion andacknowledges the need for immediate action, but refers to the measures already initiated by the responsible federal office.