Research on humane euthanasia of swine

Date:2013-08-08 12:32:16  From:  Author:


S.T. Millman, B.Sc.(Agr), Ph.D.
Veterinary Diagnostic & Production Animal Medicine and Biomedical Sciences Departments, Iowa State University, Ames, IA
In a systematic review of the scientific literature, there are relatively few studies providing empirical data about on-farm swine euthanasia. Recently, specific calls for research proposals have been issued for swine euthanasia, and several novel technologies are emerging. Furthermore, researchers are refining techniques to measure the efficacy and animal welfare implications of euthanasia technologies. Mechanical methods of euthanasia, including penetrating and non-penetrating captive bolt technologies, are based on disruption of brain function resulting from impact of a solid object with the skull. Postmortem examinations indicate that head injuries are likely to be fatal when there is haemorrhage within the brain stem. The American Veterinary Medical Association Guidelines for Euthanasia (2007) states “non-penetrating captive bolt must not be used as a sole method of euthanasia”, but recent research at Iowa State University indicates a new generation of captive bolt device has been shown to be an effective single step euthanasia method for all but the largest weight class of pig. Euthanasia using gases such as carbon dioxide and argon have been developed for suckling and market weight pigs, and present some advantages over mechanical methods. Novel gas delivery systems for on-farm use provide opportunities to refine flow rates and gas mixtures for more humane induction of insensibility. Since all euthanasia techniques have trade offs, there is no Gold Standard for on-farm swine euthanasia and considerations for animal welfare, worker health, carcass disposal and public health must be weighed in each situation. Further research is needed to address challenges associated with swine euthanasia including reliable techniques for the mature sow and boar, methods of restraint, tools for decision making about humane endpoints, safeguards for safety and psychosocial effects imposed on those performing this task.

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