Alternative electrical stunning methods

E. Lambooij, M.A. Gerritzen, V.A. Hindle

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingAbstract


Current legislation demands that all birds are immediately rendered unconscious at stunning and that they remain insensible until death ensues. The legal minimal current for an individual bird in the water bath is 100 mA. During a survey, large differences were observed between slaughterhouses in the settings for water-bath stunning parameters for broilers. Based on the observed differences in technical settings, and between-animal differences in impedance and in sensitivity, it is highly probable that large numbers of birds are inadequately stunned during current usage of the water-bath technique in slaughterhouses. It was hypothesised that the placement of electrodes in order to bypass the feet and legs would result in efficiency gains by utilising lower currents. Broilers are effectively stunned with a controlled current of 70 and 100 mA for 1 or 1.5 s using a water bath where the head of the broiler is immersed in the water as electrode and a steel electrode at the cloaca as opposite electrode. There are fewer incidences of blood splashes in both fillets and legs of carcases head cloaca stunned compared to those stunned in a conventional water bath. The method is in development for application in practice. An alternative to whole-body electrical stunning is head-only stunning, where the stunning current only passes through the head of the animal. Head-only single-bird electrical stunning was evaluated using a cone-shaped restrainer in which the broilers were suspended by their feet. Broilers may be insensible and unconscious after head-only electrical stunning with pin-electrodes using a current of 190 (± 30) mA for 0.5 s. A set current of 250 mA is recommended to overcome individual differences in resistance. To prevent recovery the stun should be followed by an immediate neck cut. Since carcase quality is only slightly compromised such equipment is being developed further for commercial use. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a recently developed non-invasive technique used in human psychiatry to treat depression with slowly repeated pulses to the frontal lobe or to induce seizures. A study was done to determine whether or not TMS with an adapted coil for broilers has potential for further development as a noninvasive stunning method for broilers. TMS of the brain is a potential alternative for use as a stunning method for broilers. However, more research is required before further development for application as a stunning method.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHSA Centenary International Symposium : Recent Advances in the Welfare of Livestock at Slaughter, Herts, UK, 30 June - 1 July, 2011
EditorsJ.K. Kirkwood, C. Mason, J. Spence, H. Barker, S. Weddell
Place of PublicationHerts UK
PublisherUniversities Federation for Animal Welfare
Publication statusPublished - 2012
EventHSA Centenary International Symposium -
Duration: 30 Jun 20111 Jul 2011


ConferenceHSA Centenary International Symposium


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