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A Systematic Review of equid welfare at slaughter: existing evidence and evaluation of animal welfare indicators

Fletcher, Katharine Ann; Limon, Georgina; Whatford, Louise; Grist, Andy; Knowles, Toby; Gibson, Troy


Katharine Ann Fletcher

Georgina Limon

Louise Whatford

Andy Grist

Toby Knowles

Troy Gibson


Guidance surrounding equine slaughter varies globally and lacks published evidence, limiting practical application, causing industry confusion and potentially compromised welfare. Existing research in this field was systematically reviewed, with gaps in the literature assessed and welfare indicators evaluated for feasibility in a commercial setting. Four databases were searched: PubMed, CAB Abstracts, Science Direct and Google Scholar, using a combination of different search terms. Predetermined inclusion and exclusion criteria were applied with full articles assessed for reliability, repeatability, potential bias and study design. Each welfare indicator was assessed on feasibility for slaughterhouse observations and level of invasiveness. In total, 2,194 articles were screened, and an additional 35 articles were identified via peer-networks and after a snowball search of reference lists. After screening, 105 studies were identified for inclusion in the review. Of these, 101 (96%) were peer-reviewed journal articles and 4 (4%) were grey literature. Thirty-two (30%) looked at equid slaughter specifically with conflicting findings regarding slaughter efficacy, but overall agreement on horses showing stress-related behaviour prior to slaughter. Most studies (n=76, 72%) were conducted in High-Income Countries and not countries where equid slaughter is most prolific. Welfare indicators were identified with deemed feasible for use as non-invasive or pathological measures in a commercial slaughterhouse. In conclusion, this review found a shortage of published research assessing equid welfare at slaughter, particularly donkeys and in low-income countries, highlighting the need to urgently develop an evidence base for improving guidance in this area.


Fletcher, K. A., Limon, G., Whatford, L., Grist, A., Knowles, T., & Gibson, T. (2022). A Systematic Review of equid welfare at slaughter: existing evidence and evaluation of animal welfare indicators. Livestock Science, 263, 1-9.

Journal Article Type Review
Acceptance Date Jun 12, 2022
Online Publication Date Jun 13, 2022
Publication Date Jun 13, 2022
Deposit Date Nov 25, 2021
Journal livestock science
Print ISSN 1871-1413
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 263
Article Number 104988
Pages 1-9
Keywords Animal Welfare; Equine; Slaughter; Systematic Review; Welfare Indicators
Publisher URL