Today, the committee on “welfare improvement in pig slaughter” met for the first time. The committee includes: Two scientific experts on stunning, a veterinarian specializing in pigs and their behavior, a technical expert on slaughter lines, an animal welfare manager from a large pig slaughterhouse and Eyes on Animals.
Reasons for the committee
Many pigs in Europe are stunned with CO2. Scientists and animal welfare organizations, including Eyes on Animals, consider the CO2 stunning method inhumane because it causes 10-20 seconds of respiratory pain and distress, causing the animals to panic. A ban on the CO2 stunning method seems to be within reach. However, alternative gases, such as argon and nitrogen, are not (for practical nor animal welfare reasons) a suitable alternative to CO2. LAPS (Low Atmosphere Pressure Stunning) does not appear to be suitable for pigs either.
Electric stunning seems to be the more ‘humane’ alternative to CO2. However, the raceway to the electric stunner needs serious improvements. Pigs are scared to walk into the individual raceway and electric prods are often used to force the pigs forward. Eyes on Animals has therefore formed a research committee to establish what can be done to improve the flow of the pigs towards the electric stunner.
Preliminary conclusions and next steps
Several options to improve the flow towards the electric stunner were discussed today, such as a coral raceway with double entrances to the stunner (like at Thones Natur), a double raceway (with transparent partitions), a crowd pen and a conveyor belt on the floor. There was consensus within the committee that research is needed into the potential of these improvements. Research has focused on alternative gases to CO2 for decades (with poor results) but electrical stunning has not been adequately researched as an improved alternative. In parallel to this, the committee will be looking for 1. slaughterhouses interested in making improvements in the flow to the electric stunner and 2. manufacturers of slaughter facilities to commit to improve electric stunning.