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  Equid Welfare at Slaughter


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  Dr Troy Gibson, Dr Georgina Limon, Dr Andrew Grist, Prof T Knowles  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Equids are routinely slaughtered by abattoirs or dispatched by knacker/render yards in the UK and worldwide. Conditions, facilities and practices vary significantly both within and between countries. There is limited research and a lack of knowledge on the humane slaughter of equids, with much of the legislation and guidance, when existing, relying on anecdotal observations and comparisons to other livestock species. This has resulted in significant risk to equid welfare and a limited understanding of equid slaughter practices. The lack of research precludes science informed policy and guidance on the most appropriate and humane handling, stunning and slaughter methods for equids.

The project is funded by World Horse Welfare and is an internationally focused PhD studentship designed to investigate and improve equid (horses/ponies and donkeys) welfare in a range of countries and conditions. The overall aim is to examine equid welfare during the entire slaughter process, from unloading at the abattoir to the act of stunning and slaughter. This project will provide a detailed overview of equid slaughter practices in key global areas, identify risks to equids welfare, lead to the development and standardisation of transferable pre-slaughter, stunning and slaughter methods and/or guidance that ultimately improve equid welfare.

The projects objectives are:

  1. Systematic review of the existing literature for equid welfare during the entire slaughter process    
  2. Assessment of preslaughter factors that compromise equid welfare in commercial conditions.
  3. Assessment of the pathophysiology of currently used commercial stunning/slaughter methods for equids.
  4. Refinement/development of preslaughter factors to improve equid welfare considering local constraints.
  5. Refinement/development of stunning systems to improve equid welfare considering local constrains.
  6. Development and/or validation of practical field based indicators of stunning/slaughter effectiveness.
  7. Production of international guidance to promote improved equid welfare at slaughter.

The successful student will need to be prepared to work in the UK and overseas abattoirs, which may vary significantly in conditions and working environments.

This project would be suitable for candidates with a minimum of an upper second class or first class degree or equivalent in a related science (e.g., animal science, veterinary, biology, bioscience), and a keen interest in animal welfare science.




  • Undergraduate and/or postgraduate research experience
  • Experience with field based research
  • Equid research experience Experience with behavioural and pathological assessment of animal welfare

This project will principally be field based and will involve international travel and working abattoirs.

4 year studentship fully-funded by World Horse Welfare

If you are interested in applying for this position, please follow the link below. Please use your personal statement to demonstrate any previous skills or experience relevant to this project.

How to Apply

For more information on the application process and English Language requirements see How to Apply.

Interviews will take place remotely over Zoom.

We welcome informal enquiries - these should be directed to the Lead Supervisor: [Email Address Removed] 

Deadline: 04/01/2021

Agriculture (1) Philosophy (28) Veterinary Sciences (35)

Funding Notes

This opportunity is open to UK and International students and provides funding to cover a tax-free stipend in the region of £17,804-24,298 based on the background of the candidate, and UK/EU level tuition. Candidates from outside of the UK/EU will be required to cover any difference between International and Domestic fees.


1 - Cáraves, M., & Gallo, C. (2007). Caracterización y evaluación de la eficacia de los sistemas de insensibilización utilizados en equinos en Chile. Archivos de medicina veterinaria, 39(2), 105-113.
2 - Gibson, T. J., Bedford, E. M., Chancellor, N. M., & Limon, G. (2015). Pathophysiology of free-bullet slaughter of horses and ponies. Meat science, 108, 120-124.
3 - Micera, E., Albrizio, M., Surdo, N. C., Moramarco, A. M., & Zarrilli, A. (2010). Stress-related hormones in horses before and after stunning by captive bolt gun. Meat science, 84(4), 634-637.
4 - Micera, E., Moramarco, A. M., & Zarrilli, A. (2012). Reduction of the olfactory cognitive ability in horses during preslaughter: stress-related hormones evaluation. Meat science, 90(1), 272-275.
5 - Svete, A. N., Cebulj-Kadunc, N., Frangez, R., & Kruljc, P. (2012). Serum cortisol and haematological, biochemical and antioxidant enzyme variables in horse blood sampled in a slaughterhouse lairage, immediately before stunning and during exsanguination. Animal: an International Journal of Animal Bioscience, 6(8), 1300.
6 - Werner, M., & Gallo, C. (2008). Effects of transport, lairage and stunning on the concentrations of some blood constituents in horses destined for slaughter. Livestock Science, 115(1), 94-98.
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