Is it ethical to slaughter pregnant animals?

Received on December 10th, 2015
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of the deputies Weigerstorfer,


to the Federal Minister for Health

concerning "Slaughterhouse Practice in Austria"


A look across the border shows that, according to estimates by the German Association of Veterinarians, up to 180,000 pregnant cows are slaughtered every year. The unborn calves suffocate in the uterus after the cow dies. Dying could take up to 20 minutes, said Kai Braunmiller, chairman of the Federal Working Group for slaughterhouses and veterinary director.

“The unborn calves are often only discovered when the dead mother animal is gutted. For Federal Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt (CSU) a situation that is "absolutely unacceptable". "We want and have to do something" against the slaughter of pregnant cattle, he now announces in the ARD political magazine "Report Mainz", which will be broadcast on Tuesday evening. Regulations and new enforcement regulations are planned at European and, for the first time, also at national level. "I want us to end this practice as soon as possible," says Schmidt on the program. "


According to Braunmiller, the unborn calves slowly suffocate in the uterus after the cow is killed. An agonizing death that could take up to 20 minutes. "We are now expecting action, that is: a ban on slaughtering pregnant farm animals," says Braunmiller on the program.

The German Farmers' Association also considers the slaughter of highly pregnant cows to be unjustifiable. "From the point of view of livestock owners, there can be no sensible reason for such slaughter, either from an ethical or an economic point of view," said a statement from the association. "Exceptions could at best be justified by a medical indication or by necessary, officially ordered disease control."


Slaughtering pregnant animals is currently legal. Neither the German animal welfare slaughter ordinance nor the corresponding EU ordinance contain any rules on this. According to their own statements, the German Farmers 'Association and the state farmers' associations have sensitized livestock keepers in recent months to ensure that high-bearing cattle are not brought to the slaughterhouse.


A Swiss study has shown that 70 percent of the animal owners actually did not know anything about the pregnancy; however, this study is not representative and focuses on only one slaughterhouse.

Katharina Riehn from the University of Applied Sciences in Hamburg had already drawn attention to the problem of slaughtering pregnant cattle in 2011. An analysis of the data from 53 slaughterhouses showed that up to 15 percent of the animals delivered were pregnant each year; 90 percent of them were in the second or third trimester of pregnancy. These numbers can be taken as an indication that it was not an unintentional mistake, but that those responsible deliberately brought pregnant cows to the slaughterhouse. "[1]


The undersigned MEPs therefore address the woman Federal Minister for Health below





1) To the knowledge of your ministry, how many cows are pregnant at slaughter each year? Please break down by federal state.

2) Does your ministry plan to address the problem with its own surveys at the slaughterhouses? If so, in what form, if not, why not?

3) In the opinion of your ministry, is the Animal Welfare Act suitable for ensuring that pregnant cows are killed in accordance with animal welfare standards? If so, how do you justify this, if not, what changes are planned here?

4) What solutions are there from the point of view of your ministry with regard to animal welfare-friendly treatment of the fetuses?

5) Does your department plan to ban the slaughter of pregnant cows, and if not, why not?

6) What animal welfare problems do your ministry see when transporting pregnant cows?

7) So far, the slaughter of pregnant animals has simply been practiced. Neither in the German animal welfare slaughter regulation nor in the corresponding EU regulation or the Austrian animal welfare slaughter regulation are there any rules. What measures will your ministry take to end this practice in Austria or to enforce appropriate regulations at EU level? If not, why not?

[1] URL: Werden.html (as of July 14, 2015)