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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Anoxia: What is it?

An explanation of the anoxia principle

The Anoxia technique is developed as alternative for existing animal stunning methods that are based on the use of CO2, electrocution, neck dislocation, captive-bolt, as well as killing methods like de-bleeding and maceration.
In the past 10 years, Wageningen University and University of Glasgow conducted several studies that proved that the technique could be applied successfully for culling poultry (Proof of Principle Anoxia Technique). This was the start of the development of several applications based on the Anoxia principle, using high expansion foam filled with >99% Nitrogen.

The technique has now been introduced in:

    1. Stunning and killing of sick and cripple killing piglets less than 5 kg
    2. Stunning and killing of sick or cripple poultry (especially poultry > 3kg) who need to be killed on the farm by the staff for welfare purposes (avoiding unnecessary stress or pain)
    3. Stunning and killing of poultry that arrives on the slaughterhouse but that are unfit to be slaughtered (due to injuries occurred during transportation – providing signs of possible illness etc.)
    4. Stunning and killing of male pullets at the hatchery
    5. Stunning and killing of half-hatched chickens and embryos in partly-hatched eggs, before destruction
    6. Stunning and killing parent stock poultry
    7. Killing of animals that have been stunned (captive bolt – blow-on-the-head method, etc.) replacing killing by de-bleeding
    8. Culling of ex-layers
    9. Culling of poultry for disease control purposes

 

Last November 2016 the campaign started the launch of the commercialization of the Anoxia applications in Holland, Germany and Sweden, focusing on the areas where a solution is most needed: piglets (< 5kg) and poultry (> 3kg) on farms.

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Revolutionary new stunning method launched on the EU market

Celle, December 22, 2016, by Harm Kiezebrink

Revolutionary new technique

After 10 years of research & development a revolutionary new stunning technique is introduced. Based on the principles of animal welfare as described in the Terrestrial Animal Health Code of the International Standards of OiE: The Anoxia technique – stunning and killing animals by placing them under atmospheric conditions in an environment without oxygen. The solution is not only simple and safe and cost-efficient; it is also not physically demanding to the farmer and his employees.


Animal welfare

The principle guarantees that the animal(s) are placed in an environment with pure nitrogen, once the high expansion foam, filled with 100% nitrogen, replaces the atmospheric air inside the container. From that moment on, the animal inhales pure nitrogen, an atmospheric gas that all living species are used to and that can be inhaled without any physical reactions because atmospheric air contains 78% nitrogen that is inhaled by every breath.


Simple technique

The newly developed and patented technique is simple. All it needs is a soap dispenser connected to a water tap; a soap concentration; a bottle of pure nitrogen including a regulator; a standard waste 240/340/370 liter wheelie-bin container; and the Anoxia lit that closes and seals of the container. Inside the container, a high expansion foam generator is placed, connected to the water/soap and nitrogen through flexible tubes, connected to the inside of the lid. A chiffon is added to the lid, in order to allow atmospheric air to escape the container when it is filled with foam.

Standard Operating Procedure

According to the Standard Operating Procedure, the water/soap and the nitrogen tubes are connected to the electrical valves on outside of the Anoxia lid. Then the animal(s) are placed in the bin, next to the foam generator. The lid is closed and the foam production is started.


Stunned within 30 seconds

After 30 seconds, the container is filled completely with foam. At the moment that the foam is placed in the container via the chiffon, the foam production is stopped and the chiffon is sealed off. Throughout the foam production process the animals remain calm. The high concentration of nitrogen replaces the oxygen in the blood and via the longs; nitrogen is transported to the organs instead of oxygen. The first organ that reacts is the brain that immediately shuts of consciousness.

Body reactions

The contractions of the muscles start after the brain is no longer able to control the movements of the muscles and is not a sign of stress, like with traditional gas stunning methods, where oxygen is gradually replaced with gasses like CO2 or Argon.
Therefore the Anoxia technique is the revolutionary alternative for existing stunning methods that are based on the use of CO2, electrocution, neck dislocation, captive-bolt, as well as killing methods like de-bleeding and maceration.


Anoxia applications

Several applications based on the Anoxia principle are now introduced for:
1. Stunning and sick and cripple killing piglets less than 5 kg
2. Stunning and killing of sick or cripple poultry (especially poultry > 3kg) who need to be killed on the farm by the staff for welfare purposes (avoiding unnecessary stress or pain)
3. Stunning and killing poultry that arrives on the slaughterhouse but that are unfit to be slaughtered (due to injuries occurred during transportation – providing signs of possible illness etc.)
4. Stunning and killing of male pullets at the hatchery
5. Stunning and killing of half-hatched chickens and embryos in partly-hatched eggs, before destruction
6. Stunning and killing parent stock poultry
7. Killing of animals that has been stunned (captive bolt – blow-on-the-head method, etc.) replacing killing by de-bleeding
8. Culling of ex-layers
9. Culling of poultry for disease control purposes


Sales started December 2016

The first application that’s introduced on market in Germany, Holland, Sweden and Denmark can be applied for Stunning and killing piglets less than 5 kg; – poultry > 3kg (turkey and parent stock); and embryos in partly-hatched eggs.

More info

For more detailed information on the Anoxia technique, please visit www.Anoxia.EU, or send your request for information to the N2GF team at info@n2gf.com and one of our consultants will come back to you as soon as possible.

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LAPS system to stun poultry is not allowed within the EU

There are two different approaches utilize Nitrogen to stun and kill animals: 1) rendering poultry unconscious – causing Anoxia – by placing poultry in foam filled with >98% Nitrogen (the Anoxia method), and 2) rendering poultry unconscious by gradually reducing oxygen tension in the atmosphere leading to progressive hypoxia in the birds (the LAPS method).

The Anoxia method, using a high concentration of Nitrogen under atmospheric circumstances is permitted under EU 1099/2009. The LAPS method is not permitted in the EU. In order to be allowed in the EU, new stunning methods must ensure a level of welfare at least equivalent to that of the methods already provided in Council Regulation 1099/2009.

The EFSA‟s Panel on Animal Health and Welfare (AHAW Panel) was asked to deliver a scientific opinion on the use of a low atmosphere pressure system (LAPS) for stunning poultry. Four documents were provided by the European Commission (EC) as the basis for an assessment of the extent to which the LAPS is able to provide a level of animal welfare at least equivalent to that ensured by the current allowed methods for stunning poultry.

The LAPS is described as rendering poultry unconscious by gradually reducing oxygen tension in the atmosphere leading to progressive hypoxia in the birds. In order to be allowed in the EU, new stunning methods must ensure 1) absence of pain, distress and suffering until the onset of unconsciousness, and 2) that the animal remains unconscious until death.

The submitted studies were peer-reviewed by the AHAW Panel as outlined in its “Guidance on the assessment criteria for studies evaluating the effectiveness of stunning intervention regarding animal protection at the time of killing”.

It is unclear from the submitted documents whether the rate of decompression used in LAPS induces unconsciousness and death without causing avoidable pain and suffering in poultry. The assessed studies did not pass the eligibility assessment and, therefore, no further assessment was undertaken.

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EFSA Guidance on assessment new stunning & slaughter methods

This guidance defines the assessment process and the criteria that will be applied by the Animal Health and Welfare Panel to studies on known new or modified legal stunning interventions to determine their suitability for further assessment.

The criteria that need to be fulfilled are eligibility criteria, reporting quality criteria and methodological quality criteria. The eligibility criteria are based upon the legislation and previously published scientific data. They focus on the intervention and the outcomes of interest, i.e. immediate onset of unconsciousness and insensibility or absence of avoidable pain, distress and suffering until the loss of consciousness and sensibility, and duration of the unconsciousness and insensibility (until death).

If a study fulfils the eligibility criteria, it will be assessed regarding a set of reporting quality criteria that are based on the REFLECT and the STROBE statements. As a final step in this first assessment phase, the methodological quality of the submitted study will be assessed. If the criteria regarding eligibility, reporting quality and methodological quality are fulfilled, a full assessment of the animal welfare implications of the proposed alternative stunning intervention, including both pre-stunning and stunning phases, and an evaluation of the quality, strength and external validity of the evidence presented would be carried out at the next level of the assessment.

In the case that the criteria regarding eligibility and reporting quality and methodological quality are not fulfilled, the assessment report of the panel will highlight the shortcomings and indicate where improvements are required before the study can be assessed further. In addition to the assessment criteria, the guidance also specifies general aspects applicable to studies on stunning interventions that should be considered when studying the effectiveness of stunning interventions.

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European rabbit production in deep trouble

Because in practice, farmed rabbits get sick, old or cannot be used for scientific testing (up to 1/3 of all farmed test animals cannot be used because they don’t fit the test profile), they have to be killed, either at the slaughterhouse (meat production) or on the farm facility. Up to January 1, 2013, using a high concentration of Co2 killed the rabbits.

That process was declared illegal, after the introduction of EU Directive EU 1099/2009 that only allows the following techniques to kill rabbits:

• Penetrative captive bolt device
• Firearm with free projectile
• Percussive blow to the head
• Lethal injection

All these techniques require an intensive contact between animals and operators. In case of an outbreak, using labor-intensive techniques need to be avoided, based on costs and the risks of spreading through human intervention. So what are the options: A new technique needs to be introduced to the European Food Safety Authority EFSA of the scientific committee of DG SANCO.

However sympathetic the scientific committee thinks about the need to develop a new technique for large-scale killing of rabbits, the industry has to take the initiative to present a complete science-based report, that is conducted according to Guidance on the assessment criteria for studies evaluating the effectiveness of stunning interventions regarding animal protection at the time of killing.

The Panel on Animal Health and Welfare was asked to deliver a scientific opinion on the use of carbon dioxide for stunning rabbits. Specifically, EFSA was asked to give its view on the findings of the study performed by the Polytechnic University of Valencia (Spain) and the Animal Technology Centre CITA-ITAVIA “Estudio sobre la valoración mediante parámetros técnicos y de manejo del sistema de aturdimiento con gas CO2”. (red: “Study on the assessment by technical parameters and system management with CO2 gas stunning.”).

The answer was not at all satisfactory for the rabbit industry: As a first step, the type of study, critical variables, experimental design, data collection and analysis and reporting methods needed to supply scientific evidence that the use of CO2 is an acceptable alternative for the stunning of rabbits were defined. These criteria were then applied to the study.

The submitted study was not adequate for a full welfare assessment of the alternative method studied because it does not fulfill the eligibility criteria and the reporting quality criteria defined, according to the opinion of the committee. Follow this link to se the entire report. The rabbit industry has to raise sufficient funds to bring forward a complete report, ticking all the boxes, to enable EFSA to review the killing method proposed. First after EFSA is convinced that the proposed method is an improvement, the technique is accepted, meaning that in line with EU 1099/2009 all criteria like training & certification described in EU 1099/2009 need to be in considered as well.

Why is this so significant? Let’s assume that the rabbit industry would like to use the Anoxia method for killing rabbits. The method needs to go through the entire EFSA procedure before it can be applied within the rabbit industry. That would be the best option, but it still include going to the entire process of approval.

This makes it so hard to introduce better and more animal welfare friendly techniques like the Anoxia method to be applied within the EU. The rabbit industry is relatively small, but they have to fulfill the rules within the directive, if not, it will be the end of this industry if they do not come up with a solution that is validated and approved by EFSA.

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Lotta Berg 2007: ISAH conference emergency poultry killing

This presentation summarizes methods available for killing poultry during outbreaks of epizootic or zoonotic diseases. Available methods for killing poultry are listed and discussed with relation to practical aspects, biosecurity, animal welfare, occupational hazards and other pros and cons of each method.

The stunning methods mentioned are blow to the head, electrical stunning and captive bold stunning, all mainly applicable for small or possibly medium-sized farms. The killing methods discussed are bleeding, neck dislocation, maceration, injection of barbiturates, carbon dioxide (in-house, in containers, in flow-containers), nitrogen and argon gas, of which some are suitable also for large poultry flocks.

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Animal welfare during pandemics and natural disasters

Interesting presentation of Dr. Mohan Raj, Bristol University, on the different methods of culling, a bit outdated, but still informative. Caring during crisis: Animal welfare during pandemics and natural disasters ; Humane killing of animals for disease control purposes. In this presentation you will find an overview of pro’s and con’s of the different techniques. Dr. Raj concluded that the Anoxia method was one of the most promissing techniques available, but at the time of presentation, the technique was not fully develeoped. Today, the technique has been evaluated and is ready to be implemented.

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LAPS, Low Atmosphere Pressure Stunning, an experimental slaughter method of chickens using decompression


USA, Poultry site April 19, 2010:
Research at Mississippi State University suggests that the new method has potential as a slaughter method in terms of bird welfare and without disadvantages during subsequent processing, according to Y. Vizzier Thaxton in her paper at the European Symposium on Poultry Welfare in Italy last year.

Read the entire article: http://www.thepoultrysite.com/articles/1712/a-new-humane-slaughter-methods-for-broilers-low-atmospheric-pressure

Although this method is based on the principle of hypoxemix anoxia, it is completely different from the N2GF method. Within the USA, the organization, UPC United Poultry Concern describes Low Atmospheric Pressure Stunning LAPS as a way of torture chickens:

USA, UPC, April 38, 2011: LAPS – A New Way to Torture Chickens & Turkeys to Death by decompression

In Fort Smith, Arkansas, a chicken slaughter company called OK Foods has introduced a decompression technology called “low atmosphere pressure system” (LAPS). Guided by poultry researchers at Mississippi State University who are conducting LAPS experiments on young chickens, they’re calling the decompression of chickens “humane.”

The birds are placed in a sealed cylindrical chamber and the pressure in the chamber “is reduced at a continuous rate to a target decompression pressure for a period of time until a state of death is obtained.” Due to its cruelty, decompression of shelter animals is no longer used in the United States. “Decompression sickness” is an agonizing experience arising from the decompression of a body as it is being depleted of oxygen.

Read the entire article: http://www.upc-online.org/slaughter/decompression/

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Anoxia caused by Nitrogen Foam: an alternative for stunning animals with high concentrations of Co2?


In the International Journal of Pharmacology, a group of Mexican scientists discuss the controversies related to stunning pigs and poultry with of high concentrations of Co2.

One of the recommendations was: ‘From the perspective of animal welfare, 90% argon by volume, or the lowest possible Co2 concentration to stun a swine is recommended. Argon is suggested as welfare-friendly alternative to carbon dioxide for stunning/killing pigs and poultry’.

During this research, 90% Argon in volume in combination with Co2 was reviewed: a combination of gasses resulting to the same as using Nitrogen foam, filled with 98% nitrogen: Anoxia, the total absence of oxygen. Is it fair to suggest that Anoxic Nitrogen Foam would be a reasonable alternative for using high concentrations of Co2?

Read the entire report:

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