Press release December 22, 2012 English

Humane euthanizing of sick animals

The most humane method to euthanize animals that are in severe pain or suffer severely seems to be the use of nitrogen gas foam. By this method the animals will be unconscious within a short time through an abundance of nitrogen. The animals die in a short time, without regaining consciousness. This novel method will be extensively tested at the Swine Research Centre of Wageningen University, the Netherlands.

Pigs or poultry (and other animals) that are in severe pain or that suffer severely have to be euthanized, if there is no practical and economical way to alleviate this pain or suffering. This is clearly defined in Council Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009, which come into force from the 1 of January 2013. This EU-regulation states that the euthanasia of the animal has to be as quickly as possible, in order not to prolong the period of suffering. The animal should be spared of avoidable pain, distress or suffering by the euthanasia. Therefore stunning of the animal prior to killing is necessary, except when the stunning and killing is done at the same time. At all times it is necessary that the animal stay unconscious until death enters.

Nitrogen foam
With a new method, nitrogen gas foam all the demands of the Council Regulation are fulfilled. The method of nitrogen foam has been developed for young piglets and poultry, a group of animals for which the acceptable methods prescribed in the Council Regulation are not suitable.
The method of nitrogen foam uses a barrel, filled up with a layer of high expansion foam (big bubbles) completely filled with pure nitrogen. The animal will be placed into the foam and covered with a layer of foam of at least 60 centimetres. The animal will breathe 98 per cent nitrogen. Blood oxygen diminishes very quickly and the animal will very soon become unconscious. Because of the extreme oxygen deficiency (anoxia) the animal dies within one and a half to two minutes. The animal will not regain consciousness and won’t notice that it dies.
The animal will be unaware that it breathes in pure nitrogen. It will not be harmful or painful for the animal because the normal air an animal breathes consists already of 80 per cent nitrogen. Inhalation of nitrogen is therefore not stressful, whereas for example with high concentrations of carbon dioxide the animal will try not to breathe.
No physical load
The method of nitrogen foam is also not physically demanding on the farmer and his employees. The animal almost instantly loses consiousness after being dipped through the foam. Fixation of the animal to avoid them to hurt themselves during stunning is not needed, as necessary in most other methods. Because of the thick nitrogen foam layer and the amount of 98 per cent nitrogen it is certain that the animal will die. The chance that the method fails and the animal regain consciousness and doesn’t die, is almost zero.

Capture nitrogen
The advantage of the use of high expansion foam is that the nitrogen gas is captured in the bubbles. Nitrogen is lighter than the surrounding air and would normally mix quickly with the air. To be sure that the nitrogen doesn’t escape during the procedure there will be always a layer of 60 centimetres of foam above the animal.

The thick layer of foam avoids that the nitrogen escapes. The method therefore is safe to use for the operator. After a longer period the foam will disappear and the nitrogen will mix with the surrounding air, without any risks.
Working with nitrogen gas foam is also hygienic. The animals will stay in the barrel were they are euthanized. No body fluids will be released.

Extensive research with the method of nitrogen foam will start on the 1st of January 2013 at the Swine Research Centre of Wageningen University, the Netherlands. This research has to prove that the animals are unconscious in a short time and die because of the lack of oxygen. And the animals should not suffer from stress or pain from the method. An exploratory survey with poultry already showed that this is achievable.
Next to the effects on the animals the reliability of the equipment will be tested, and a standard operating procedure will be developed. Possible risks for het operators or the environment will be examined. In half a year the equipment will be tested, ready to use and will become available commercially.

For the operators, training will be an integral part of this new method. During a theoretical online training, the operator will learn to recognize whether animals are suffering. He will also be able to avoid stress for the animals and will know how to perform the process of euthanasia. The second part of the training is a practical exercise under the supervision of a certified veterinarian, concluded with an assessment and certification.

More background information about nitrogen foam, euthanasia en e.g. the EU Council Regulation can be found at


The Emsland model

Landkreis Emsland is a district in Lower Saxony, Germany was one of the first to implement a Emergency Response, Management & Control strategy based upon EU 1099/2009. This presentation provides an overview of the consequences of recent large-scale outbreaks and how a successful strategy could contribute to prevent them socio-economic consequenses.


Introduction on pig management and procedures related to killing on the farm

Welcome to the introduction to module 1. In this module, we will handle the theories behind animal welfare, the legislation, farm management, pigs behavior and handling and the role of the Veterinary Inspection.

The protection of animals at the time of slaughter or killing is a matter of public concern that affects consumer attitudes towards agricultural products. The protection of animals at the time of slaughter or killing is the duty of the farmer or any person involved in the killing of animals. They need to take the necessary measures to avoid pain and minimize the distress and suffering of animals.   Besides that, it is an ethical duty to kill productive animals which are in severe pain where there is no economically viable way to alleviate such pain, suffering and distress.  Good animal welfare management is influenced by the farm facility, people’s behavior and good understanding of the animals’ natural behavior as well as his behavior under stress.

 The requirement for the competence of staff handling animals at the farm should be specific enough to include in particular the following objectives in the context of the interaction and the species concerned:

  • Understand the ethical principles concerning the human-animal relationship
  • Show general knowledge and understanding of animal behavior
  • Identify and understand the signs of pain, suffering and distress including fear of animals
  • Show practical abilities in the foreseen interaction while preventing or limiting animals’ pain, suffering and distress
  • Show knowledge of the legal obligations related to the protection and welfare of animals
  • Prove the acquired and maintained competence through an independent and objective examination.

The pigs perspective

Staff – handlers approach should be balanced when handling animals to keep low level of stress. The same is true when the conditions on the farm suddenly change caused by an outbreak of a disease.

Animal welfare principles in a global context

Individuals, societies, cultures and religions vary considerably in what is considered “right action” when it comes to how animals should be treated. As a result there have been numerous attempts to define the term “animal welfare”, but as yet no universally agreed definition. In common usage welfare is perceived as a satisfactory or positive state and words such as “good health”; “well being” and “happiness” are frequently used.

 Some of the more recognized scientific definitions include: “Welfare, on a general level, is a state of complete mental and physical health where the animal is in harmony with its environment.” (Hughes 1976). More detailed approaches to try and define animal welfare revolve around three areas or questions:

  1. Physical state – Is the animal fit and healthy?
  2. Mental state – Is the animal happy? 
  3. Naturalness – Is the animal living a natural life?

Most agree that these three elements are not mutually exclusive and the aim should be to develop and manage systems which take into account all of these aspects.

Regulation EU1099/2009

This new EU legislation describes the rules for killing of animals bred or kept for the production of food etc. during slaughter, as well as the killing of animals for the purpose of depopulation and for related operations.

The OIE code

In 2007, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) adopted the Terrestrial Animal Health Code, which includes guidelines for the killing and slaughter of animals. In this module, we will follow mainly the definitions as described in the Terrestrial Animal Health Code of the International Standards of OiE, and the definition of animal welfare at time of killing as described in reg. EU1099/2009.

Temple Grandin

According to dr. Temple Grandin, one of the world most influential animal welfare specialists, animals are not things and the protection of animals at the time of slaughter or killing is a matter of public concern.  This module focuses on moments in life of animals to be considered to have high risks for animals experiencing stress and pain.

Learning objectives of this module

This introduction module will cover the following learning objectives

1.     Short introduction how to apply welfare principles on the farm:

  1. What needs to be done to maintain animal welfare principles during animal handling  
  2. What are the critical control points for welfare principles during animal handling
  3. Examples of good practice during animal handling

2.     What is the influence of the design of facilities and equipments in the euthanasia management on the farm:

  1. What is described in Reg. EU 1099/2009 regarding the role of the farm management of how to apply animal welfare principles with respect to the design of farm facilities
  2. What is described in Reg. EU 1099/2009 regarding the farm management of how to apply animal welfare principles with respect to the design and use of slaughter equipment on the farm

3.     How to apply animal welfare principles:

  1. How to apply animal welfare principles at the farm facility
  2. Examples of good practices on how to apply animal welfare principles during handling

4.    The pig and its normal behaviour

  1. The pigs’ natural behaviour
  2. The pigs’ normal behaviour in groups
  3. How pigs respond to stress and changes in their environment
  4. The pigs’ visual capacities and how this influences its behaviour to stress
  5. The pigs’ vocal capacities, as an indicator for stress
  6. The pigs’ body language and how to determine stress indicators
  7. The pigs’ learnt behaviour and how this influences his reaction to stress at the slaughterhouse

5.     Handling and movement of pigs

Then we will go into more details on handling pigs during movement on the farm and during uploading for the transport:

  1. Introduction to the movement of  pigs
  2. Arousal levels of pigs
  3. Principles of smooth uploading
  4. Moving pigs: Fight, flight or freeze
  5. How to use The pigs’ point of balance

6.     The role of the Veterinary Inspector

In the end of this module, we will discuss the role of the Veterinary Inspector in his role as representative of the competent authority, assessing farm facility and the responsibilities of the farmer and his staff.


Scotland: Implementation of regulation EU 1099/2009

EU 1099/2009 mainly comprises technical rules that are directly applicable in all Member States. These give rise to changes in, for example: the scope of the legislation, licensing arrangements, management practices, operational practices, and stunning requirements. This consultation outlines in more detail what these changes are, provides a link to the Regulation for further information.

Read more: EU 2099/2009 scottish background info from Charm Key


Presentation gas foam method English

Applying nitrogen gas foam for the killing of animals according to EU regulation EU 1099/2009

See for presentation in English:


Presentatie Gas schuim methode Nederlands

Toepassen van stikstof gasschuim voor het doden van dieren volgens EU verordening EU 1099/2009

Beschrijving van de procedure om dieren met stikstof gas-schuim te doden.

Zie de presentatie in het Nederlands:


Regulation EU 1099/2009 ENG

English text of Regulation EU 1099/2009:


Verordening EU 1099/2009 NL

Tekst verordening 1099/2009 Nederlands: