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The EFSA Panel on Animal Health and Welfare (AHAW) was asked to deliver scientific opinions on monitoring procedures at slaughterhouses for different animal species, stunning methods and slaughter without stunning. AHAW agreed that, although it is traditional to look for outcomes of unconsciousness in poultry following stunning, the risk of poor welfare can be detected better if bird welfare monitoring is focused on detecting consciousness, i.e. ineffective stunning or recovery of consciousness.
Therefore, the indicators were phrased neutrally (e.g. corneal reflex) and the outcomes were phrased either suggesting unconsciousness (e.g. absence of corneal reflex) or suggesting consciousness (e.g. presence of corneal reflex). This approach is commonly used in animal health studies (e.g. testing for the presence of a disease) but very new to animal welfare monitoring in slaughterhouses.
A toolbox of selected indicators is proposed to check for signs of consciousness in poultry after stunning with waterbaths or gas mixtures; a different toolbox of indicators is proposed for confirming death of the birds following slaughter without stunning.