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Behind the scenes of the fight for the protection of animals and workers and the preservation of the environment - my experiences as a Tyson slaughterhouse hanger/killer turned activist. Exposing the evils of factory farming, by Virgil Butler. If you have arrived here looking for the Tyson stories, view the early archives. Some of them are now featured on the sidebar for easy searching.

Friday, September 26, 2003

The Benefits of Gas-Killing 

I am a member of a Yahoo! group called
Animal Rights Debate where people from
both sides of the issue come to discuss the
issues of rights, welfare, and use of animals.
One of the members asked me, "How much
testing has been done with Argon?" in reply
to my answer to her about whether there
was a humane way to kill chickens. I had
told her that gas-stunning is being used in
Europe. It is better, not only for the chickens,
but also for the workers.

Since this commercially viable possibility exists,
we should employ it here, too. I had not
heard of such a practice before Cem told me
that he had been doing some research into the
idea. I brought this up to some people who
still work down at the plant, and they would
love to see it implemented. You should have
seen their faces light up with joy at the idea
of making their job so much better.

So, Lisa, here is the answer I would have
posted on the forum, but I felt it was too long
for that and also deserved posting here:

The following is taken from a position paper
written by Cem Akin at PETA, who was the
researcher assigned to my case. (He has shown
himself to be a very educated person that care
about the truth. He made sure that I could back
up every pieces of information that we used. I
have never seen any attempt by him to skew the
truth. I trust his research because of his track
record of displaying consistent honesty and truth)
The words are his, but the emphasis is mine:

Research has shown that the use of 90%
argon in air with less than 2% residual oxygen
is the most humane and least aversive mixture
for killing poultry.
A study comparing different
types of mixtures found that the argon mixture
is "acceptable on humanitarian grounds" and
that "chickens can be ideally be killed in batches
by inducing anoxia...with 90% argon...in air.
(A.B.M. Raj, 1994)

While CO2 has been shown to bee highly aversive
to humans (N. G. Gregory, A. B. Mohan Raj,
A.R.S. Audsley, and C.C. Daly, "Effects of Carbon
Dioxide on Man," in "The Use of Carbon Dioxide
for the Stunning of Slaughter Pigs,"
Fleischwirtschaft 70 [1990]:1173-4) and birds
when inhaled, argon is an inert gas and is not
readily detected, thus can be used to create a
non-aversive atmosphere where birds die
painlessly.
In one study, researchers observed
that 100% of hens tested entered a feeding
chamber filled with 90% argon voluntarily and
were killed by the gas, while fewer than half even
set foot into a chamber containing CO2. (A.B.M.
Raj, 1994) Other research looking into poultry
gassing, particularly for turkeys, found that
"because argon is an inert gas with no taste or
odor, most of the turkeys did not detect its
presence, and they didn't show any signs of
respiratory discomfort before they lost
consciousness," whereas others displayed
discomfort via head shaking and gasping with a
mixture containing CO2. (A.B.M. Raj 1996)

Clearly, the use of an anoxia-inducing mixture
of 90% argon in air with less than 2% residual
oxygen results in great welfare improvements
over other methods of killing or stunning poultry,
including reduced stress during unloading,
shackling, and stunning, and a reduced risk of
prestun shocks and being conscious during neck-
cutting and scalding.
The residual oxygen level,
however, must be carefully maintained at less
than 2% to ensure rapid brain function loss,
as several researchers have found that trapped
air between birds or crates can raise the residual
oxygen to levels than can prevent proper
stunning. Also, in order to ensure that recovery
to consciousness does not occur, it is crucial
that the birds be killed by the gas before being
shackled. Studies examining the batch tunning
of chickens using the various gas concentrations
found that many birds rapidly regained
consciousness, suggesting that gas stunning
may be unsuitable on welfare grounds.
Researchers have recommended that "birds
should be killed rather than stunned by the
stunning gases" and that this "will not only
obviate the recovery of consciousness, but
subsequent operations such as uncrating and
shackling of the birds and neck cutting would be
performed more easily on the dead and hence
relaxed carcasses." (A.B.M. Raj, and N.G. Gregory,
"Investigations Into the Batch Stunning/Killing
of Chickens Using Carbon Dioxide or Argon-
Induced Hypoxia," Research in Veterinary Science,
49 [1990]: 366.) In order to improve upon
the deficiencies of electrical stunning, the use of
gas methods must kill the birds, rather than
merely stun, thus reducing the likelihood of
regaining consciousness during slaughter.

In addition to the welfare benefits, gas killing
provides producers with improved carcass
quality
when compared to electrical stunning,
the latter of which is "frequently criticized on
both bird welfare and meat quality grounds."
(A.B.M. Raj, L.J. Wilkins, R,I. Richardson,
S.P. Johnson, and S.B. Wotton, "Carcass
and Meat Quality in Broilers Either Killed With
a Gas Mixture or Stunned With an Electric
Current Under Commercial Conditions," British
Poultry Science (in press), (1997): p. 169)
Researchers at the University of Bristol looked
at carcasses of gas-stunned vs. electrically
stunned broilers and concluded that incidence
of broken bones and breast muscle
hemorrhaging would be "substantially reduced
by gas-killing of broilers," (Ibid, p. 173.)
In addition, the study found that gassing also
results in a more rapid pH fall after the killing
than with electrical stunning, thus enabling
early filleting. A study published in the
Veterinary Record also compared carcasses
from the two stunning methods and stated
that "the advantages of gaseous stunning
include improved meat quality, fewer broken
bones, and less muscle hemorrhaging,"
(A.B.M. Raj, and N.G. Gregory, "Effiency of
Bleeding of Broilers After Gaseous or Electrical
Stunning," Veterinary Record, 128 [1991]:127.)
The authors also looked into the concern that
gas-stunned birds do not have as good a
bleed-out rate as electrically stunned birds and
found that after 1 minute, the differences were
"not sufficient to impede the bleeding efficiency
of broilers." (Ibid, p. 128.) Another study at
the University of Bristol in the U.K. found that
"Gaseous stunning of broilers produced relatively
better quality carcasses and meat than electrical
stunning and therefore may have commercial
advantages."
(A.B.M. Raj, T.C. Grey, and N.C.
Gregory, "Effect of Electrical and Gaseous
Stunning on the Carcass and Meat Quality of
Broilers," British Poultry Science, 31 [1990]: 725.)

Yet another reason that gas killing improves
carcass quality results from the tendency of
a chicken to inhale water during the initial
spasm from being electrically shocked. A
recent study examined this by including a
radioisotope in the stun bath and then looking
at carcasses to determine whether or not
internal radioactivity was detected. The results
clearly showed that "chickens can and do inhale
water during electrical stunning in a water bath
and that no remedy is available at the moment."
N.G. Gregory, and P.E. Whittington, "Inhalation
of Water During Electrical Stunning in Chickens,"
Research in Veterinary Science, 53 [1992]:362.)
The authors suggest that the respiratory tract
could thus become contaminated with bacteria
from the stun bath and leak onto the edible
portions of the carcass during evisceration.


I hope everyone enjoyed the break from the
gruesome today. As hard as it is for you to read
about this stuff, it is even harder on me to have
to talk about it, especially with all those pictures
in my head of what it actually looked like, smelled
like, heard like, felt like.....

Here, today, there is hope. This would definitely
be a win-win situation for everyone down the line.
The chickens, the workers, the consumers, and
even the activists - welfare or rights, all benefit.
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