Animal Protection Groups Concerned over Decompression of Chickens

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dozens of Processors Urged to Only Use the Slaughter Method Approved by the Country's Top Animal Welfare Scientists

Norfolk, VA -- A coalition of animal protection organizations have sent letters to more than 30 of the nation's largest chicken suppliers urging them not to consider a new slaughter method called "low-atmospheric pressure killing" (LAPK), or "vacuum stunning." Several leading animal welfare scientists, including world-renowned expert Dr. Temple Grandin, have expressed concerns that LAPK might cause chickens to experience significant pain. After reviewing the most recent industry data on LAPK, Grandin wrote, "The behavioral reactions [of the chickens] are poorly described in this paper..." Among the companies that will receive a letter are Perdue Farms, Pilgrim's Pride, and Tyson Foods.

Dr. Mohan Raj, visiting fellow in the University of Bristol's School of Veterinary Sciences, has voiced his concern about the probability of ruptured guts and air sacs in conscious birds during LAPK. Grandin, Raj, Dr. Ian Duncan, and many other animal welfare experts recommend "controlled-atmosphere killing" (CAK), the least painful slaughter method available. In CAK, the oxygen that chickens breathe is slowly replaced with a nonpoisonous gas mixture that puts the birds "to sleep." As a result, they do not experience the pain of shackling and live scalding common in electrical stunning or the potentially painful effects of LAPK. At least two chicken processing companies - Bell & Evans in Pennsylvania and Pitman Family Farms in California - are currently implementing CAK.

"[T]he evidence to date does not offer meaningful data to support claims that LAPK is humane, nor does it answer many critical questions about the birds' experience from an animal welfare perspective," write the groups. "Because of the numerous critical unanswered questions regarding the impact of vacuum stunning, we cannot encourage a commercial switch to it at this time."

The coalitions’ letter to chicken suppliers is attached.

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Media Contact:
Dena Jones, AWI, (202) 446-2146 or dena@awionline.org