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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Evaluation of Poultry Stunning with Low Atmospheric Pressure, Carbon Dioxide or Nitrogen Using a Single Aversion Testing Paradigm

Gent, Thomas C.; Gebhardt-Henrich, Sabine; Schild, Sarah-Lina Aagaard; Rahman, Abdulsatar Abdel; Toscano, Michael J.


Simple Summary The use of gas stunning for poultry in the abattoir is considered preferable from a welfare and ethical perspective since it reduces the need for stressful handling and birds do not need to be separated from each other. Stunning with low atmospheric pressure is thought to be less stressful than the widely used carbon dioxide; however, there are no published studies directly comparing their aversiveness. Here we trained broiler breeders to indicate aversion to either carbon dioxide, low atmospheric pressure or the inert gas nitrogen, by relinquishing a food reward to seek a preferable environment. We found that exposure to carbon dioxide resulted in the rapid cessation of feeding, whereas with low atmospheric pressure and nitrogen, birds continued to eat for longer. We further found that carbon dioxide exposure resulted in more aversion behaviours, such as headshaking and gasping. These findings suggest that both low atmospheric pressure and nitrogen offer a welfare refinement to gas stunning with carbon dioxide in poultry. Low atmospheric pressure stunning (LAPS) has been suggested for use in poultry under 4 kg in the abattoir as a more humane alternative to carbon dioxide (CO2). However, there are currently no studies offering a direct comparison of the aversion between methods. Here, we trained adult female broiler breeders to relinquish a food reward by moving to another area of the gas chamber in response to aversive stimuli. They were then stunned and subsequently killed using single exposure to either CO2, N-2, LAPS or medical air as a control. Birds exposed to CO(2)relinquished the food reward the quickest and exhibited gasping and headshaking more than the other groups. LAPS resulted in the quickest time to loss of posture (LOP) and birds in the N(2)group took the longest. Birds exposed to N(2)displayed the longest duration of ataxia of any group; however, they did not show any wing-flapping prior to LOP, unlike the LAPS and CO2. Collectively these data demonstrate that both LAPS and N(2)are less aversive to poultry than CO(2)and may offer a significant welfare refinement for poultry killed for meat production.


euthanasia; low atmospheric pressure stunning; CO2; N-2; broiler breeder; poultry; aversion test

Published in

2020, Volume: 10, number: 8, article number: 1308
Publisher: MDPI

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Animal and Dairy Science

    Publication Identifiers


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