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The welfare of water buffaloes during the slaughter process: a review

De La Cruz, L; Gibson, T J; Guerrero-Legarreta, I; Napolitano, F; Mora-Medina, P; Mota-Rojas, D


L De La Cruz

T J Gibson

I Guerrero-Legarreta

F Napolitano

P Mora-Medina

D Mota-Rojas


This paper reviews the scientific literature on water buffalo welfare in all stages of the live animal supply chain from the farm gate to slaughter (loading/unloading, markets, transportation, handling, lairage, stunning and slaughter) with the objective of identifying risk factors and potential mitigation strategies. Although in some countries legislation exists to protect the welfare of farm animals during transport and killing, the handling practices used to load and unload buffaloes and move them in livestock markets and abattoirs are often harsh. This is frequently due to inadequate equipment designed principally for cattle, and the fact that water buffaloes are considered more temperamental than cattle. Additionally, more reactive animals have increased stress responses to handling, which can lead to more negative human interventions with increased numbers of skin lesions and bruises to the carcasses. During transport, buffaloes may suffer periods of thermal stress due to overstocking, inadequate ventilation and because in many tropical climates trips are made during the hottest time of the day. The anatomical and physiological characteristics of water buffalo make them particularly susceptible to thermal stress in the absence of water for wallowing. Although water buffaloes belong to the same Bovidae family as domestic cattle, certain anatomical features of the head make effective stunning very problematic. Buffaloes have extensive sinuses and frontal bones, meaning that the penetrating captive bolt devices recommended for cattle may prove ineffective in reliably inducing unconsciousness. There is a need for further development of procedures, stunning positions and appropriate devices to improve the efficiency of buffalo stunning. Finally, in many parts of the world where buffalo are routinely slaughtered in basic conditions without prior stunning. Slaughter without stunning can result in pain and stress associated with delays in the time to loss of consciousness, pain from the cutting of the neck and potential distress associated with aspiration of blood into the respiratory tract. Specific legislation, guidelines and handler/stockman/operator training programmes should be developed to improve the welfare of buffaloes during all ante mortem stages of loading, unloading, handling, stunning and slaughter.


De La Cruz, L., Gibson, T. J., Guerrero-Legarreta, I., Napolitano, F., Mora-Medina, P., & Mota-Rojas, D. (2018). The welfare of water buffaloes during the slaughter process: a review. Livestock Science, 212, 22-33.

Journal Article Type Review
Acceptance Date Mar 26, 2018
Publication Date Mar 29, 2018
Deposit Date Apr 5, 2018
Publicly Available Date Apr 1, 2019
Print ISSN 1871-1413
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 212
Pages 22-33
Public URL


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