Killing by Decompression

Poultry company OK Foods announced it intends to begin killing chickens by decompression, using a technique referred to as “vacuum stunning” or “low-atmospheric pressure killing.” Thus far, little evidence exists to support the notion that vacuum stunning is humane. Animal welfare scientists are worried that the reactions of birds to decompression have not been adequately researched. Dr. Mohan Raj, visiting fellow in the University of Bristol’s School of Veterinary Sciences and a renowned expert on humane slaughter, has expressed concern that gas trapped in the birds’ air sacs and guts may rupture, causing significant pain and distress. In view of these concerns, a coalition of animal protection groups, including AWI, is urging poultry suppliers not to employ the new method until answers are obtained to many critical questions about the birds’ experience from an animal welfare perspective. Poultry companies are instead encouraged by animal welfare groups to adopt “controlled-atmosphere killing” (whereby oxygen is removed from the atmosphere while the birds are still in their transport crates)—considered the least painful slaughter method currently available