Illegal slaughter, the outlawed rule. #CleanSpades

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Clandestine slaughter, it goes without saying, cannot guarantee either food safety or animal welfare. Yet it is de facto legitimized, under the pretext of ‘private domestic‘ use being extended to cattle as well, between the folds of the infamous Legislative Decree. 27/21. (1) With a blanket green light to the slaughter for private use of farm animals by anyone and anywhere.

The Mario Draghi-led government-after foiling thesgolpe attempt aimed at decriminalizing food safety offenses (2)-must now reform the outlawed rule before it causes serious public health risks in the name of uncontrolled folklore. And weed out the weed of the Coldiretti magic circle from the ganglia of MiPAAF and every other public administration. #CleanSpades.

Clandestine slaughtering, ‘private domestic use

The ‘provisions on slaughtering for private household use‘ – introduced by Leg. 27/2021 in Article 16 – provide that slaughtering can take place indiscriminately outside licensed slaughterhouses. Specifying that freedom from culling affects all animals on George Orwell’s farm. Not only poultry, small game, and lagomorphs (hares and rabbits) but also sheep, goats, pigs, and even cattle species.

The only burden on the ‘do-it-yourself butcher’ is to notify the local health authority, informing of the place and time of slaughtering for the purpose of self-consumption (Legislative Decree 27/2021, Art. 16.3). Burden by the way devoid of penalty. On the unrealistic assumption that official public vets can flock to the thousands of domestic sacrifices that are concentrated on holidays-civil or religious-to check compliance with the very general criteria that follow.

Legislative Decree. 27/2021, the ‘very general’ criteria

The delegated national legislature referred detailed regulations on slaughter for ‘own consumption’ to the autonomous regions and provinces, limited to animal welfare aspects. By defining some general, indeed very general, criteria:

1) Prohibition of meat and products derived from slaughtering for ‘private use’ for trade,

(2) respect for animal welfare, with a ban on ritual slaughter without stunning, (3)

(3) establishment of regional standards to prevent zoonoses, (4)

4) Arrangement of control programs that allow spot checks on animal health and welfare, hygiene, proper disposal of by-products. (5)

Pre-war regression

Legislative Decree. 27/2021 – ‘in orderto enable the national maintenance of traditional methods and consumption‘-repealed instead the provisions consolidated over a century of honored service by Royal Decree 20.12.1928 no. 3298 (d.lgs. 27/21, articles 16.1, 18.1.a). Precisely that Regulation for the Supervision of Meat that has guaranteed veterinary supervision in Italy for 93 years, without undermining any agrestre tradition but rather saving millions of people from the risk of death and serious illnesses from food poisoning. Thanks to strict regulation of slaughtering for private use, according to which:

– slaughtering of cattle, buffalo, pigs, sheep, goats and horses for food could only take place in municipal public slaughterhouses (RD3298/1928, Art. 1.1),

– home slaughter was conditional on the issuance of an ad hoc permit from the municipal authority and prior notice (at least 24 hours in advance) to the municipal veterinarian. So that the latter could arrange the dutiful visit and witness the slaughtering, followed by ‘complete and thorough inspection of the meat.’

Royal Decree 3298/1928, the lost guarantees

In the century that passed before the enactment of Leg. 27/2021, the Regions and Autonomous Provinces had regulated home slaughter for private use, limiting the number of heads/year per household and the periods when this activity could be performed. In addition to defining:

– Procedures and timeframes for approvals from the relevant health authority,

– Provisions for veterinary staff’s ante- and post-mortem inspection of meat and certain viscera (especially trichinoscopic examination, to detect the presence of dangerous parasites in muscle tissue),

– Rules for disposal of by-products and slurry.

The measures adopted at the regional level, in allowing slaughter for private use at approved slaughterhouses at all times and without species limitation, aimed, among other things, to avoid confusion with meat intended for marketing (with ‘family use’ branding and slaughtering at predetermined times, or the requirement for transport documents to ensure that only the authorized person is destined and receives the meat at his or her residence).

Public health hazard

The legislative ‘novelty’ has some very serious critical issues that are first and foremost relevant from the perspective of food safety and public health. For a few simple reasons:

– sheep and goats, suidae and cattle are exposed to zooonoses that have not been eradicated in Italy or Europe. Tuberculosis, brucellosis, and trichinella are the most prevalent communicable diseases,

– slaughtering, skinning and eviscerating animals requires infrastructure, equipment and sanitation skills essential to prevent and mitigate the risks of equally dangerous microbiological contamination. Some strains of E.Coli (e.g., STEC, VTEC) are fatal i.e., capable of causing permanent injury to vital organs,
Salmonella
and Campylobacter are increasingly resistant to antibiotics,

– the green light to slaughter, skinning, and evisceration of sheep, goats, suidae, cattle, and buffalo outside licensed slaughterhouses-with only eventual and ‘random’ public veterinary oversight-withdraws outbreaks of even lethal diseases from public scrutiny. With a de facto legalization of clandestine slaughter and the uncontrolled circulation of huge quantities of unsafe foods.

Protection of animals at slaughter, EU rules

Reg. EC 1099/09 among other things, introduced minimum rules for the protection of animals at the culling stage. (6) First and foremost, the obligation to stun the animals before slaughtering them (outside of only ritual slaughtering cases, which is to be carried out in licensed slaughterhouses in any case) and the qualification of suitability of slaughtering workers, as well as specific measures for the construction of slaughterhouses, etc.

These rules apply to the slaughter of animals raised for the production of food, wool, hides and furs, as well as slaughter for depopulation purposes and related operations. Excluding l hunting and recreational fishing, as well as the debated areas of scientific experiments, ‘cultural’ or sporting events (e.g., bullfights, palii).

Slaughter for self-consumption, EU rules

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)-in its opinion ‘Welfare of cattle at slaughter‘ (2020)-exposed 40 critical issues on the application of reg. EC 1099/09. (7) ‘Minimum measures‘ are insufficient to protect animals, and yet the Commission has deferred ad maiora the animal welfare strategy. (8) Regarding the slaughter of animals for self-consumption, reg. EC. 1099/09 does not apply to the culling of poultry, rabbits and hares.

The killing of other animal species for self-consumption (equine cattle sheep goats and pigs), on the other hand, falls under the scope of the European regulation and is subject to the cardinal rule, ‘during the killing and related operations avoidable pain, distress or suffering shall be spared to the animals.’ Therefore, the duties of:

– Preventive stunning of animals in accordance with the methods and rules set out in Annex I to the regulations,

– guarantee of maintaining loss of consciousness and sentience until the death of the animal,

– Adequate competence of the persons doing the culling (EC Reg. 1099/09, Article 10).

Ritual slaughter

Ritual slaughter-understood as ‘a series of acts related to the slaughter of animals prescribed by a certain religion‘-can be excluded from the prior stunning requirement, according to the European regulation, on the sole condition that it is performed in specifically authorized slaughterhouses (reg. 1099/2009, Art. 2.g, 4.4).

Among other things, the EU Court of Justice has recognized the legitimacy of stricter national regulations in the direction of ‘reversible stunning‘ as a compromise between rituals and animal welfare. (3) Instead, italic liberalization lends itself to the spread of ‘at-home’ slaughter, especially close to holidays such as Id al-adha, the Islamic celebration also known as the ‘throat-slitting festival‘ or ‘mutton festival.

Unconstitutionality

Legislative Decree 27/2021 draws its foundation from the 2018 European Delegation Act. (9) Which is by its nature ‘aimed exclusively at the implementation of European directives and framework decisions to be transposed into national law, excluding any other legislative delegation provisions not directly attributable to the transposition of European legislative acts.’ (10)

Indeed, the parliamentary acts that preceded the adoption of the delegation law refer precisely to updating the system of official public controls with respect to the provisions introduced by Reg. (EU) 2017/625, without referring to any deregulation. (11) Article 16 of Leg. 27/21 is therefore unconstitutional. And it is indeed unsuitable to ensure compliance with the Official Public Controls Regulation itself, as well as with the requirements of EC 1099/09.

#CleanSpades

The lobby that commands agricultural policies in Italy has been given the green light for the most lugubrious festivals and clandestine slaughter. In defiance of the Constitution of the Italian Republic, applicable European regulations and the Treaty itself, which recognizes animals as sentient beings in Article 13.

It is imperative and urgent to repeal the outlawed rule, due to irrepressible public health needs. And it is equally necessary to open an investigation – at MiPAAF and the Ministry of Health – to identify and punish those responsible for abuses of office, in hairy connivance with the usual notables.

Dario Dongo

Notes

(1) Dario Dongo. Legislative Decree. 27/21 and repeal of Law 283/1962, question of constitutionality. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 17.3.21, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/sicurezza/d-lgs-27-21-e-abrogazione-della-legge-283-1962-questione-di-legittimità-costituzionale

(2) Dario Dongo. Food crimes, Draghi government saves Law 283/1962. #CleanSpades. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 3/20/21, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/sicurezza/reati-alimentari-il-governo-draghi-salva-la-legge-283-1962-vanghepulite

(3) Dario Dongo. Ritual slaughter, EU Court of Justice green light for reversible stunning requirement. GIFT(Great Italian Food Trade). 12/27/20, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/mercati/macellazione-rituale-via-libera-della-corte-di-giustizia-ue-all-obbligo-di-stordimento-reversibile

(4) Dario Dongo. One Health. Animal, human, planetary health and welfare. What can we do? GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 2.6.21, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/consum-attori/one-health-salute-e-benessere-animale-umano-planetario-cosa-possiamo-fare

(5) Dario Dongo, Marina De Nobili. Animal health, 7 new regulations complete EU reform. GIFT(Great Italian Food Trade). 1.7.20, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/sicurezza/sanità-animale-7-nuovi-regolamenti-completano-la-riforma-ue

(6) Reg. EC 1099/09, on the protection of animals during slaughter. Consolidated text as of 12/14/19 at https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/IT/TXT/?qid=1622823760136&uri=CELEX%3A32009R1099

(7) Dario Dongo. Animal welfare, EFSA opinion on cattle at slaughter. Status quo and prospects. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 4.11.20, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/sicurezza/benessere-animale-parere-efsa-sui-bovini-al-macello-status-quo-e-prospettive

(8) Dario Dongo, Marina De Nobili. Animal welfare, ad maiora. The role of ConsumActors. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 10.7.20, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/consum-attori/benessere-animale-ad-maiora-il-ruolo-dei-consumattori

(9) Law 4.10.2019 no. 117. Delegation of powers to the government for the transposition of European directives and the implementation of other acts of the European Union – European Delegation Act 2018. See Article 11. https://www.gazzettaufficiale.it/eli/id/2019/10/18/19G00123/sg

(10) Law 234/12. General rules on Italy’s participation in the formation and implementation of European Union laws and policies. https://www.normattiva.it/uri-res/N2Ls?urn:nir:stato:legge:2012-12-24;234

(11) House of Representatives. European Delegation Act 2018. Dossier 8.10.18. See page 67. https://documenti.camera.it/Leg18/Dossier/Pdf/ID0004.Pdf

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.