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HISTORICALLY the majority of lambs slaughtered in the UK were stunned before slaughter. However, now there are pressures within the sheep meat sector to slaughter lambs without prior stunning. This would make the meat consignments acceptable to both religious and secular communities, thus increasing the potential profit of lamb processing. There are unconfirmed reports that non-stunned lambs may soon equal stunned lambs slaughtered in the UK.
I investigated the implication for the welfare of non-stunned lambs during the commercial slaughter process. The duration of sensibility in non-stunned lambs during slaughter was assessed in a cohort of 800 lambs. Where practicable, the phases of the lamb slaughter were timed using a digital stopwatch. The corneal and palpebral reflexes were checked and the pupillary reflexes were tested using a clinical pencil torch. The respiratory drive and any movements of the lambs or response to the carotid cut were observed. The lambs were restrained on the cradle for 20 seconds or until unconsciousness supervened. The neck …