Eyes on Animals gave a talk today to 130 people at the HSA (Humane Slaughter Association) conference. The international audience was made out of slaughterhouse managers, meat inspectors, slaughter equipment manufactures, veterinarians and scientists.
We gave a talk about the serious concern for pigs being stunned in slaughterhouses using CO2 and the need for a more “humane” and viable alternative. CO2 gas sadly causes pigs to panic for 15-30 seconds from asphyxiation and a burning sensation of their respiratory membranes. We presented a 3-year project we have been working on with a big pig abattoir in Europe at drastically reducing suffering/fear of pigs through automatic electric stunning, in the hope that this option can help phase out the CO2 stunning option. Electric stunning can be painless and instantaneous when done correctly. We were advised by Temple Grandin during this project. The speed was reduced by 4-times by installing 4 automatic electric stunners instead of just 1, and by placing the single-file raceways side by side so that pigs are given the chance now to move forward simultaneously, and no longer get in single file (which they don’t like). Moving small groups of just 6 pigs at a time, instead of 15-20 as done previously, and installing a light signal system means no more bottle necks or pigs facing closed gates and getting anxious. We also got rid of all noise-making tools (rattling paddles are gone!) to finally reduce the noise in the plant. Loud noise causes fear in pigs and exhaustion/ headaches for the workers.
As long as big slaughterhouses exist we are trying to at least curb the amount of suffering pigs endure during slaughter and we hope our talk today will inspire other plants to copy the better practices, as well as help phase out the use of the CO2 stunning option.