UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Use and perceptions of the Emergency Slaughter Program in British Columbia Koralesky, Katherine Elizabeth


When dealing with acutely injured or non-ambulatory dairy cows, dairy producers in British Columbia must decide whether to treat, ship, euthanize, or use the Emergency Slaughter Program (ESP). This thesis focused on the last of these options. The specific injuries and conditions that result in ESP use are unknown, although identification of these reasons could allow additional monitoring of cows when they may be vulnerable to emergency slaughter, and determine the most appropriate reasons for ESP use. Analysis of 812 ante-mortem inspection documents found that a large proportion of cows in the ESP were non-ambulatory (63%) or had sustained what were likely calving-related injuries (37%). Two distinct uses for the ESP emerged including 1) traumatic incidents (i.e. emergencies) such as a fractured femur and 2) ‘inhumane to transport’, a category that likely includes non-emergencies such as lameness where cows were not necessarily in acute distress but could not be transported humanely. Anecdotal reports suggest that the ESP may be controversial among dairy industry professionals, but to date the overall perceptions including concerns and benefits of the program are unknown. Understanding these perceptions can be used to provide recommendations for improving the ESP particularly in situations where cow welfare is compromised and individuals must make decisions in potentially uncertain and unwanted situations. Interviews and focus groups with 40 dairy industry professionals revealed positive and negative perceptions of the ESP influenced by 1) an individual’s values, 2) the perceived operational legitimacy of the ESP and 3) overarching concerns about the dairy industry. Resulting recommendations for the ESP include: 1) clarification of cow conditions that warrant the use of the ESP for non-emergency situations, 2) additional training for veterinarians on ante-mortem inspection, 3) specification of precise timing parameters for when the ESP can be used, 4) the use of proper equipment and procedures that ensure meat quality and hygiene of carcasses, 5) added collaboration between slaughterhouses, transporters, veterinarians, producers and the dairy industry to allow the appropriate use of the ESP in other parts of British Columbia and 6) proactive culling and the use of on-farm protocols for making end-of-life decisions.

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