News & Current Affairs

September 19, 2008

EU sets new slaughterhouse rules

EU sets new slaughterhouse rules

Battery chickens at farm in Sicily

Chickens are often stunned with an electrified “waterbath”

The European Commission says new legislation is needed to improve animal welfare at European slaughterhouses.

Current EU rules on animal slaughter are “outdated in many respects,” the commission said on Thursday.

Under a new proposal, abattoirs would have to ensure proper training for staff and monitor the efficiency of their stunning equipment.

But current stunning methods would not be banned. The proposal still requires approval by all 27 EU governments.

The new legislation will not take effect until it is approved by the European Parliament and the ministries concerned – a process that could take up to three years.

The commission says each slaughterhouse should have an animal welfare officer.

The “waterbath stunner” used for poultry would not be banned, “despite its welfare disadvantages”, the commission said.

Use of carbon dioxide to kill animals would still be allowed, despite the concerns expressed by scientists.

The commission says there is a lack of commercially viable alternatives to those methods of slaughter.

Minimizing pain

The new proposal defines the scope of stunning and slaughter methods more strictly and states that gas stunning of birds must be irreversible.

“Stunned animals will have to be regularly monitored to ensure they do not regain consciousness before slaughter,” the commission says.

Third countries exporting meat to the EU would have to meet similar standards.

But small slaughterhouses will be exempt from some of the provisions.

The proposal also covers the killing of animals for fur, the slaughter of male day-old chicks and culling for disease control purposes.

Every year nearly 360 million pigs, sheep, goats and cattle as well as several billion poultry are killed in EU slaughterhouses, the commission says.

The European fur industry accounts for another 25 million animals.

The lobby group Compassion in World Farming expressed regret that the commission failed to demand alternatives to the electrified water bath and carbon dioxide gassing methods, the AFP news agency reported.

Neil Parish MEP, Conservative chairman of the European Parliament’s agriculture committee, welcomed the commission proposal.

“In the UK we already have generally high standards for slaughtering animals, but this is not the same across the EU, where standards are patchy to say the least. We need to level the playing field and these new regulations should help to do that,” he said.

September 12, 2008

Bed sharing ‘drains men’s brains’

Bed sharing ‘drains men’s brains’

Image of a couple sleeping

Bed sharing disturbed sleep quality

Sharing a bed with someone could temporarily reduce your brain power – at least if you are a man – Austrian scientists suggest.

When men spend the night with a bed mate their sleep is disturbed, whether they make love or not, and this impairs their mental ability the next day.

The lack of sleep also increases a man’s stress hormone levels.

According to the New Scientist study, women who share a bed fare better because they sleep more deeply.

Sleepless nights

Professor Gerhard Kloesch and colleagues at the University of Vienna studied eight unmarried, childless couples in their 20s.

Each couple was asked to spend 10 nights sleeping together and 10 apart while the scientists assessed their rest patterns with questionnaires and wrist activity monitors.

The next day the couples were asked to perform simple cognitive tests and had their stress hormone levels checked.

Sharing the bed space with someone who is making noises and who you have to fight with for the duvet is not sensible
Professor Neil Stanley, a sleep expert at the University of Surrey

Although the men reported they had slept better with a partner, they fared worse in the tests, with their results suggesting they actually had more disturbed sleep.

Both sexes had a more disturbed night’s sleep when they shared their bed, Professor Kloesch told a meeting of the Forum of European Neuroscience.

But women apparently managed to sleep more deeply when they did eventually drop off, since they claimed to be more refreshed than their sleep time suggested.

Their stress hormone levels and mental scores did not suffer to the same extent as the men.

But the women still reported that they had the best sleep when they were alone in bed.

Bed sharing also affected dream recall. Women remembered more after sleeping alone and men recalled best after sex.

Separate beds

Dr Neil Stanley, a sleep expert at the University of Surrey, said: “It’s not surprising that people are disturbed by sleeping together.

“Historically, we have never been meant to sleep in the same bed as each other. It is a bizarre thing to do.

“Sleep is the most selfish thing you can do and it’s vital for good physical and mental health.

“Sharing the bed space with someone who is making noises and who you have to fight with for the duvet is not sensible.

“If you are happy sleeping together that’s great, but if not there is no shame in separate beds.”

He said there was a suggestion that women are pre-programmed to cope better with broken sleep.

“A lot of life events that women have disturb sleep – bringing up children, the menopause and even the menstrual cycle,” he explained.

But Dr Stanley added people did get used to sharing a bed.

“If they have shared their bed with their partner for a long time they miss them and that will disturb sleep.”

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