In June, the United Federation of Animal Welfare (UFAW) and the Humane Slaughter Association (HSA) cohosted a symposium in the United Kingdom (UK) on the Welfare Impacts of Controlled Atmosphere Stunning (CAS). To get a broader perspective on the welfare science related to gassing and LAPS, including international regulations and challenges, EFA sent one Board member (Susan Schafers) and one staff member (Jenna Griffin) to the event.

At the symposium there was an opportunity to meet people from around the world and learn what the egg industry does for mass depopulation on farms in different countries. A representative from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in Finland said that in Finland, despite the fact the poultry farms are very concentrated, they do not want to transport live birds. Most of their producers are using MAC carts and have to follow EU1099 regulations. They only use whole barn gassing in emergencies. This is in contrast to Sweden where whole barn gassing is common but there is a requirement for a veterinarian to be on site during the process. We were provided with a study that describes critical control points for whole barn gassing (ex. blocking of birds from gas input a specified distance) and an analysis of areas where these critical control points were not met during depopulations in Sweden (ex. time from ventilation shut off to delivery of gas).

Other learnings from attending the conference included the following:

  • The AVMA has very specific criteria for evaluation of methods: Ability to induce consciousness with a minimum of pain and distress, reliability, irreversibility, emotional effect on observers/operators, ability to maintain equipment, etc. In light of this they have banned blunt force trauma in piglets because it lacks consumer acceptability even though the science behind its use is fine.
  • Historically, the AVMA reviewed their Guidelines every 10 years but they have now made the decision to update them continuously as new information becomes available. The euthanasia standards will have an update released in February, 2018.
  • There is a move toward not just thinking about “pain” in considering the experience of an animal at death. Particularly with respect to CAS methods, there is an emphasis on breathlessness. This is because it is a particularly severe/intense experience.
  • With respect to breathlessness, there is a paradox between gradual fill and pre-charge gassing systems:   Pre-charge systems that introduce the bird directly into high concentrations (like MAC carts) likely activate pain receptors prior to unconsciousness but limit the impact of breathlessness. Gradual fill systems (like whole barn gassing) likely limit any exposure to pain, but may cause prolonged breathlessness.

If you have any questions about EFA’s representation at the Symposium or about mass depopulation please don’t hesitate to contact Susan Schafers or Jenna Griffin.