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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Responses of Pigs to Stunning with Nitrogen Filled High-Expansion Foam

Lindahl, Cecilia; Sindhoj, Erik; Hellgren, Rebecka Brattlund; Berg, Charlotte; Wallenbeck, Anna;

Abstract

Simple SummaryStunning pigs with carbon dioxide gas is one of the most common methods for commercial slaughter. Carbon dioxide, however, has been shown to be aversive for pigs and causes a high degree of distress before they lose consciousness. Stunning with nitrogen gas is less aversive than with carbon dioxide, and an innovative method that delivers the nitrogen gas in high-expansion foam in a closed container could potentially improve pig welfare at stunning. Pigs were exposed to either air-filled foam, nitrogen-filled foam, or no foam in air, and the behavioural and physiological responses were assessed. The pigs did not show any strong aversive behaviours when exposed to foam, regardless of whether it was air-filled or nitrogen-filled foam. However, they seemed to avoid putting their heads and snouts into the foam, and the rate of escape attempts through the lid increased when foam levels became high. Five minutes after the nitrogen foam production started, the pigs were assessed to be in deep unconsciousness or dead. Based on the results found, stunning with the nitrogen foam technique may be a viable alternative to carbon dioxide stunning and offer improved animal welfare. Further studies are needed to assess the new method for stunning of slaughter-weight pigs.Nitrogen gas (N-2) delivered in high expansion foam in a closed container could be a feasible method for humanely stunning pigs. This study aimed to evaluate potential aversion in pigs to the N-2 foam method and its effect on stun quality. Furthermore, the study aimed to assess potential aversion to the foam itself. Sixty pigs (27.8 +/- 4.4 kg) were divided into three treatments and were exposed to either N-2-filled foam, air-filled foam, or no foam air. The N-2 foam was effective at purging the air from the container and quickly created stable anoxic conditions. The pigs did not show any strong aversive behaviours when exposed to foam. However, they seemed to avoid putting their heads and snouts into the foam when foam levels became high. Escape attempts through the lid also increased when the foam started covering their heads. The mean time to loss of posture was 57.9 s. Based on the results, stunning with the N-2 foam technique could be a viable alternative to high concentration CO2 stunning and potentially lead to improved animal welfare at slaughter.

Keywords

animal welfare; hypoxia; anoxia; aversion; controlled atmosphere; killing; euthanasia; gas

Published in

Animals

2020, volume: 10, number: 12, article number: 2210
Publisher: MDPI

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Environment and Health
Lindahl, Cecilia
RISE Research Institutes of Sweden
Brattlund Hellgren, Rebecka
No organisation
Sindhøj, Erik
RISE Research Institutes of Sweden
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Environment and Health

UKÄ Subject classification

Animal and Dairy Science

Publication Identifiers

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10122210

URI (permanent link to this page)

https://res.slu.se/id/publ/109489