Submitted to: European Symposium on Quality of Poultry Meat
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: March 10, 2009
Publication Date: June 21, 2009
Citation: Buhr, R.J. 2009. Why poultry should be stunned at slaughter and the welfare advantages/challenges of electrical and gas. European Symposium on Quality of Poultry Meat. Turku, Finland, June 21-24, 2009. PL18. 1-11. Technical Abstract: Poultry are stunned immediately prior to slaughter to facilitate automated processing, to suppress the subsequent death struggle and thereby minimize carcass damage and down grades, and to render the bird unconscious and incapable to perceive pain. A stunning method should be considered ethical if the following criteria are attained. 1) Stunning results in a rapid onset of unconsciousness within a minimal time and with a minimal perception of pain. 2) The duration of the stun induced unconsciousness persists until death intervened. 3) There was a near zero occurrence of “under stunned” semi-conscious broilers. Stunning by definition must permit the bird to recover consciousness. Adequately electrically stunned broilers should recover consciousness, to the level of regaining the ability to maintain an erect posture, within 120 seconds following the stun. However, electrical stunning and exsanguination (bleeding) are integral steps in the slaughter of poultry and should be evaluated together in the progression to death. In contrast, poultry subjected to electrocution or gas stunning protocols are characterized as stun-kill because by design these birds will not regain consciousness even in the absence of exsanguination. There are distinct advantages and challenges to both electrical and gas stunning protocols which will be described and discussed.