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.