How do slaughterhouses kill pigs

Slaughtering stunning: how pigs suffer

Status: 03/30/2020 1:09 p.m. | archive
Before slaughter, pigs are stunned with electricity or CO2.

At the slaughterhouse, pigs are killed by a sting in the carotid artery and the resulting blood loss. Before slaughter, the animals are stunned with electricity or carbon dioxide (CO2). Many slaughterhouses choose the cheaper CO2 stunning, although the pigs suffer more. As a rule, consumers at the meat counter cannot tell which stunning was used.

Electric stunning in small and medium-sized slaughterhouses

In small land slaughterhouses, pigs are usually stunned with electricity. The method works immediately when the anesthetic forceps are applied. One disadvantage is that the pigs are isolated for stunning and immobilized in a so-called stunning trap. Depending on the skills of the slaughterer and local conditions, this can lead to stress for the animals. Electric stunning is also used in some medium-sized slaughterhouses, but in fully automated systems.

Large slaughterhouses stun pigs with gas

Large slaughterhouses usually use carbon dioxide (CO2) stunning for stunning. This has several advantages: The pigs do not have to be singled out, but are driven into the stunning gondolas in groups. This lowers the stress for the animals. Advantage for the slaughterhouses: The CO2 stunning enables higher slaughter rates. The stunning gas CO2 is relatively inexpensive.

Torture of the pigs with CO2 stunning

Unlike electrical stunning, however, CO2 stunning does not work immediately. The pigs lose their perception and sensitivity only after the so-called introductory phase of 10 to 30 seconds. During this time, the carbon dioxide forms carbonic acid on the moist mucous membranes of the respiratory tract, which causes a sharp painful stimulus.

In addition, the pigs experience a feeling of suffocation. Breathing in mammals is regulated by the CO2 content in the blood. If the CO2 level rises, the pigs react with deeper breathing, which further increases the CO2 level. The animals get breathless and panic. Significantly increased concentrations of stress hormones such as adrenaline or noradrenaline can be detected in the blood of pigs stunned with CO2.

Gas stunning: alternatives to CO2

Research is being carried out on alternative anesthetic gases such as helium, nitrogen or argon, but none of the methods is ready for practice to date. One reason for the slow progress may be the higher cost.

Recognize meat from CO2-free slaughter

Consumers currently have little chance of recognizing pork from CO2-free slaughter. Small slaughterhouses, in which pigs are stunned by knowledgeable butchers without time pressure or hectic, are ideal for animal welfare. Such slaughterhouses are occasionally found in the country, but even more rarely in large cities. Because very few butchers with their own shops slaughter the animals themselves.

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The tricks | 03/30/2020 | 9:00 p.m.