Novel applications of gas in the stunning and killing of poultry
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While gas stunning for slaughter of poultry is well established and in widespread use commercially, other uses of gases for stunning and killing have been recently developed. We investigated the welfare implications of two novel applications of gas; the use of gas filled foam in killing for disease control; and low atmospheric pressure stunning for routine slaughter. Disease control measures require poultry to be killed on farms to minimise the risk of transmission to other poultry, and in some cases to protect public health. We investigated the responses of poultry to application of high expansion water based foam filled with nitrogen. The birds were equipped with sensors and a logger to record cardiac and brain activity (electroencephalogram, EEG), and their behaviour was monitored. The results showed that the euthanasia achieved with anoxic foam was rapid, effective and humane. Further experiments have confirmed that deployment of anoxic high expansion foam is viable for use in a disease outbreak. In low atmospheric pressure stunning (LAPS), poultry are rendered unconscious prior to slaughter by gradually reducing oxygen tension in the atmosphere to achieve a progressive anoxia. Again using self-contained telemetry logging units, high quality continuous EEG and cardiac recordings were obtained from broiler chickens during exposure to LAPS in a commercial poultry processing plant. EEG analysis suggested that birds gradually lose consciousness during LAPS, and behavioural and cardiac responses indicate that birds do not appear to find LAPS induction distressing. Collectively, the results suggest that LAPS is a humane approach which has the potential to improve the welfare of poultry at slaughter by gradually inducing unconsciousness without distress, eliminating live shackling and ensuring every bird is adequately stunned before exsanguination.
Other Titles/Title of Conference
Towards the Chicken of the Future Symposium, Hertfordshire, UK
Royal Veterinary College