The main purpose of the Convention is to help harmonise methods of slaughter in Europe and make them more humane.
The first set of provisions impose a number of obligations concerning the treatment of animals in slaughterhouses: use of suitable equipment for unloading animals; no brutalising or ill-treatment of animals, and in particular no striking of sensitive parts of their bodies; lairaging and care for animals which are not slaughtered immediately on arrival; provision of the requisite facilities at slaughterhouses.
As regards the slaughter operation, the Convention stipulates that all animals must be stunned before being bled. Stunning of large animals must be effected by means of a pistol (an instrument which administers a blow or penetrates at the level of the brain), by electro-narcosis or by gas. The use of a pole-axe, hammer or puntilla is prohibited by the Convention. Furthermore, large animals must neither be suspended nor have their movements restricted before being stunned. Where there are exceptions to these rules (ritual slaughter, emergency slaughter, slaughter of poultry and rabbits, etc.), slaughter must be effected in such a way as to spare the animals any unnecessary suffering. These last provisions apply equally to slaughter in places other than slaughterhouses.