Gas alternatives to carbon dioxide for euthanasia: A piglet perspective

Published in Animal Science at December 2, 2014. By: J.-L. Rault, K. McMunn, J. Marchant-Forde, D. Lay. Gas alternatives to carbon dioxide for euthanasia: A piglet perspective. ARS-USDA.

 

A humane, practical, economical and socially accepted euthanasia method.

The use of nitrous oxide as an anesthetic/euthanasia agent may prove to be affordable, feasible and more humane than other alternatives.
The neonatal stage is a critical time in the life of a pig, when they are prone to become sick or weak. This is the stage at which most euthanasia procedures are required if the pig is judged unable to recover. Any euthanasia method should be humane, practical, economical and socially acceptable to be universally accepted.

How is the research setup?

This research sought to: 1) identify a method of scientifically determining if piglets find a gas aversive, using an approach-avoidance test which relies on the piglet’s own perspective (Experiments 1 and 2), and 2) test different gas mixtures to determine if they are effective and humane for neonatal piglet euthanasia, using a two-step anesthesia-euthanasia procedure (Experiment 3). The investigators hypothesized that nitrous oxide, and alternatively argon and nitrogen, were less aversive than carbon dioxide and would induce anesthesia prior to using carbon dioxide to complete the euthanasia procedure.

Pigs were allowed to walk freely between one chamber filled with air and another chamber either gradually filled with gas (Experiment 1) or pre-filled with gas (Experiment 2). Experiment 1 tested carbon dioxide, CO2 (90%) and air (10%); nitrous oxide, N2O (60%) and CO2 (30%); argon, Ar (60%) and CO2 (30%); and nitrogen, N2 (60%) and CO2 (30%).

Since piglets had to be removed when they became panicked, the test was shortest (P < 0.01) for the pigs in the CO2 treatment compared to pigs in the N2O/CO2, Ar/CO2, and N2/CO2 treatments, 3.1 ± 0.2, 8.5 ± 0.6, 9.6 ± 0.4, and 9.9 ± 0.1 min, respectively. Nonetheless, all gas mixtures adversely affected the pigs, causing the pigs to leave the test chamber. In Experiment 2, piglets were allowed to enter a chamber pre-filled with N2/CO2 or N2O/CO2 (both 60%/30%). Pigs exposed to the pre-fill chambers entered a state of panic in less than 20 s, much faster in comparison to the gradual fill method, which support than this method was more aversive.

In Experiment 3, piglets were euthanized using a 2-step procedure. Pigs were first placed in a gradual fill chamber with 1 of 4 gas mixtures: 90% CO2, N2/CO2, N2O/CO2 or N2O/O2 (the last three mixtures at 60%/30%) followed by placement into a 90% CO2 pre-fill chamber when the pigs became panicked or were anesthetized. All three gas treatments that contained CO2 killed pigs more quickly than N2O/O2 (P < 0.05). However, N2O/O2 was the only treatment that anesthetized the pigs instead of causing squeals or panic, although requiring about 12 min longer. Although longer, a 2-step procedure in which pigs are anesthetized with a mixture of N2O and O2 prior to being euthanized by immersion in CO2 may prove to be more humane than CO2 alone.

The results

They found that nitrous oxide in oxygen appeared to be less aversive than nitrous oxide, nitrogen, or argon all combined with low (30%) concentrations of carbon dioxide or 90% carbon dioxide by itself. This study is the first to investigate the use of nitrous oxide at sufficiently high concentrations to cause anesthesia.

Nitrous oxide, commonly referred to as laughing gas, has been widely used in human surgery and dental offices for its pain-relieving, sedative and anxiolytic effects. It is cheap, non-flammable, non-explosive, legally accessible and not classified as a drug in the U.S., and already commonly used in the food industry as a propellant for food products. Development of its use into an automated procedure will allow producers to implement it with little effort. Thus its use as an anesthetic/euthanasia agent may prove to be affordable, feasible and more humane than other alternatives.

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Animal Euthanasia: What are the challenges?

 

Animal Euthnanasia and its challenges

 

Although commonly used in other settings, defining animal welfare as part of a CSR (corporate social responsibility) setting is not new.
There are many ways to define CSR. What they have in common is that CSR describes how companies manage their business processes. This is to produce an overall positive impact on society. The phenomenon CSR is a value concept that is susceptible to particular ideological and emotional interpretations. Different organizations have framed different definitions – although there is considerable common ground between them.

Some important national players of the food chain at different steps (mainly food retailers and food services) have included animal welfare in their CSR.

Animal Euthanasia: What are the challenges? from Harm Kiezebrink

The anoxia technique

The anoxia technique

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Dossier investigation: identification of the agent

Influenza in birds is caused by infection with viruses of the family Orthomyxoviridae placed in the genus influenzavirus A. Influenza A viruses are the only orthomyxoviruses known to naturally affect birds. Many species of birds have been shown to be susceptible to infection with influenza A viruses; aquatic birds form a major reservoir of these viruses, and the overwhelming majority of isolates have been of low pathogenicity (low virulence) for chickens and turkeys. Influenza A viruses have antigenically related nucleocapsid and matrix proteins, but are classified into subtypes on the basis of their haemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N) antigens (World Health Organization Expert Committee, 1980). At present, 16 H subtypes (H1–H16) and 9 N subtypes (N1–N9) are recognised with proposed new subtypes (H17, H18) for influenza A viruses from bats in Guatemala (Swayne et al., 2013; Tong et al., 2012; 2013). To date, naturally occurring highly pathogenic influenza A viruses that produce acute clinical disease in chickens, turkeys and other birds of economic importance have been associated only with the H5 and H7 subtypes. Most viruses of the H5 and H7 subtype isolated from birds have been of low pathogenicity for poultry. As there is the risk of a H5 or H7 virus of low pathogenicity (H5/H7 low pathogenicity avian influenza [LPAI]) becoming highly pathogenic by mutation, all H5/H7 LPAI viruses from poultry are notifiable to OIE. In addition, all high pathogenicity viruses from poultry and other birds, including wild birds, are notifiable to the OIE.

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Wet Houders van Dieren: Implementatie van Verordening EU 1099/2009 binnen Nederland

Er worden binnen de Europese primaire pluimvee bedrijven jaarlijks 97 miljoen wrakke of zieke dieren handmatig gedood omdat ze hun economische waarde hebben verloren en/of uit hun lijden moeten worden verlost. Voor Nederland betekent dit ca. 5,54 miljoen vleeskuikens en een kleine 620.000 leghennen

Die uitval is een ongewenst bijverschijnsel en wordt binnen de sector als een intern probleem beschouwd. Het publiek is zich nauwelijks bewust dat het om zulke grote aantallen dieren gaat die geen keuze hebben tussen onnodig leiden en een langzame dood. Bij zulke aantallen is dierenwelzijn is in het geding en de betroffen dieren verdienen meer dan gebagitaliseerd te worden, alsof het om een te verwaarlozen probleem zou gaan.

De Europese Verordening EU 1099/2009 die per 1 januari 2013 binnen alle Europese lidstaten van kracht is geworden. werd in Nederland opgenomen in de wet Houders van Dieren die per 22 augustus 2014 van kracht is geworden.

Deze nieuwe dierenwelzijnswet biedt unieke kansen voor gespecialiseerde pluimvee dierenartsen om een sleutelrol te vervullen in de transformatie van de pluimvee sector.

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Cervical neck dislocation: The legal framework/EU Directive 1099/2009

In Europe, animal welfare is a part of the ‘licence to operate’ for the animal production industry, and the agricultural sector is one of the most heavily regulated sectors in the EU.

Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009 has come into force throughout the EU. The objective pursued by this regulation is to provide a level playing field within the internal market for all operators. Cervical neck dislocation is the traditional method of killing poultry on the farm. What changed after the Regulation 1099/2009 came into force at January 1, 2013 is that farmers are no longer allowed to use neck dislocation as routine method under emergency conditions to kill sick and cripple animals on the farm.

Many farmers lack information about alternative systems and often do not see any advantage in changing their processes, euthanizing sick and cripple animals in a more welfare friendly manner. An important problem is that the use of modern, more advanced animal welfare friendly systems of production often conflicts with economic pressure on operators to reduce costs. Not applying to administrative laws is a serious offense, usually sanctioned with high financial penalties.

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Besluit Houders van Dieren

Op 5 Juli 2014 werd het langverwachte Besluit Houders van Dieren in de Nederlandse Staatscourant gepubliseerd. Deze nieuwe wetgeving regelt onder andere het dierenwelzijn op productiebedrijven en is op 22 Augustus 2014 definitief van kracht geworden.

In het besluit zijn de Europese bepalingen overgenomen die zijn vervat in Europese Verordening EU 1099/2009. Het regelt onder meer het doden van wrakke of zieke productie dieren die op het landbouwbedrijf noodzakelijk gedood worden omdat ze hun economische waarde hebben verloren en/of uit hun lijden moeten worden verlost.

De Europese verordening voorziet bepalingen die een einde maakt aan de gebruikelijke praktijk om pluimvee door middel van handmatig breken van de nek te doden. Deze methode mag met ingang van het Besluit Houders van Dieren uitluitend nog toegepast worden als backup systeem. Iedere pluimveehouder is gehouden om een een standaard protocol te ontwikkelen en het personeel te trainen in het doden van pluimvee op het bedrijf.

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The relevance of the farming community regarding zoonoses

During the EFSA’s Stakeholder Consultative meeting in Parma on Wednesday 29th and Thursday 30th June 2011, EFS interacted with the stakeholders on EFSA’s scientific activities and the outlook of the future activities involving the stakeholders.

Annette TOFT presented the opinion of the European farmers and agricultural cooperatives COPA – COGECA, stressing the relevance of zoonoses questions to farmers and agri – cooperatives activities.

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EFSA (AHAW) report on monitoring procedures at poultry slaughterhouses

The EFSA Panel on Animal Health and Welfare (AHAW) was asked to deliver scientific opinions on monitoring procedures at slaughterhouses for different animal species, stunning methods and slaughter without stunning. AHAW agreed that, although it is traditional to look for outcomes of unconsciousness in poultry following stunning, the risk of poor welfare can be detected better if bird welfare monitoring is focused on detecting consciousness, i.e. ineffective stunning or recovery of consciousness.
Therefore, the indicators were phrased neutrally (e.g. corneal reflex) and the outcomes were phrased either suggesting unconsciousness (e.g. absence of corneal reflex) or suggesting consciousness (e.g. presence of corneal reflex). This approach is commonly used in animal health studies (e.g. testing for the presence of a disease) but very new to animal welfare monitoring in slaughterhouses.
A toolbox of selected indicators is proposed to check for signs of consciousness in poultry after stunning with waterbaths or gas mixtures; a different toolbox of indicators is proposed for confirming death of the birds following slaughter without stunning.

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One World – One Health presentation Katinka de Balogh

During the FVE conference in Brussels on April 7, 2014, Katinka de Balogh, leader of the global Veterinary Public Health activities of the FAO, presented the One-Health approach to highlight the importance of prevention, ensuring health and welfare of people and animals in a globalized environment:

• The benefit coming from the implementation of good health management in practice, both in terms of health and welfare, as well as, of financial sustainability
• The importance of coordinating actions in both sectors via a One-Health approach, with a particular focus on zoonotic diseases
• The role of the medical and veterinary profession in assuring these matters and educating the society

Katinka de Balogh is of Dutch and Hungarian origins and grew up in Latin-America. She studied veterinary medicine in Berlin and Munich and graduated and obtained her doctorate in tropical parasitology from the Tropical Institute of the University of Munich in 1984. In the late 80’s she had spent two years as a young professional at the Veterinary Public Health Unit of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva. In 2002 she started working at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome.

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EFSA report: Unlikely that the percussive blow-to-the-head method will be allowed to slaughter animals

New methods have to be developed to replace brute-force methods like smashing animals with their head against the wall. And these methods have to be approved by EFSA. This is one of the important conclusions after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) carried out a public consultation to receive input from the scientific community and all interested parties on the Draft Guidance on the assessment criteria for studies evaluating the effectiveness of stunning interventions regarding animal protection at the time of killing.

The guidance was prepared by the EFSA Panel on Animal Health and Welfare (AHAW Panel) and endorsed by the Panel for public consultation by written procedure on 10 July 2013. The written public consultation for this document was open from 15 July 2013 to 18 September 2013.

The current report summarizes the outcome of the public consultation, and includes a brief summary of the comments received and how they were addressed. The AHAW Panel prepared an updated version of the Guidance on the assessment criteria for studies evaluating the effectiveness of stunning interventions regarding animal protection at the time of killing that takes into account the questions and comments received.

One comment referred to a project regarding stunning piglets and goat kids by concussion (blow-at-the-head method):

“We have funded a research project looking at stunning piglets and goat kids by concussion as this is not currently permitted by 1099/2009, however has been common practice within industry on farm in the past –given that this opinion considers LAPS, should it also include concussion by a blow to the head? We are not aware of results at this stage, therefore I cannot comment on whether we will request in the future EFSA to review this method for inclusion” (Page 6).

The same comment was made, referring to concussion:

“We have funded a research project looking at stunning piglets and goat kids by concussion as this is not currently permitted by 1099/2009 however it has been common practice within industry on farm in the past – given that this opinion considers LAPS should it also include concussion by a blow to the head? We are not aware of results at this stage therefore I cannot comment on whether we will request in the future EFSA to review this method for inclusion” (Page 13).

EFSA Replies to this question as follows:

“The criteria and rules defined in this document apply also to back-up stunning methods used in slaughterhouses. While no detailed eligibility criteria for interventions other than those already defined in the Regulation can be provided in this document, the intervention has to be reported in sufficient detail and the outcome eligibility criteria must be fulfilled.”

And;

“The guidance considers all new or modified legal stunning interventions and back-up stunning interventions used at slaughter known to the AHAW Panel at the initiation of the mandate.”

This means that if the percussive blow-to-the-head method should become a legal method of killing or slaughter – other than as a back-up method – it has to undergo the same procedures as all killing and slaughter methods. That means the final end to the blow-on-the-head slaughter method. After the introduction of EU 1099/2009 it is no longer allowed as method to slaughter piglets, male sheep and goats, rabbits and chickens (with up to 5 kg live weight).

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