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New Device Shown Effective for Euthanizing Piglets

28 August 2012, at 7:26am

CANADA - Research conducted on behalf of the National Pork Board and Swine Innovation-Porc has found shown a new device developed at the University of Guelph is a highly effective alternative for euthanizing piglets.

The Zephyr, a device that uses a non-penetrating captive bolt, was originally developed by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture for stunning rabbits and was modified at the University of Guelph as an alternative to blunt force trauma to euthanize piglets.

With funding provided by the US-based National Pork Board and the Canadian Swine Research and Development Cluster or Swine Innovation-Porc, scientists tested the effectiveness of the device in one study on piglets up to three days old and in another on larger piglets up to nine kilograms.

Dr. Tina Widowski, a professor of animal and poultry science and the director of the Campbell Centre for Animal Welfare at the University of Guelph, says when euthanizing an animal the most important factor is to ensure it loses consciousness immediately so it doesn't feel any fear, pain or distress.

Dr Tina Widowski-University of Guelph:

Based on 100 neonate pigs, it rendered all of those 100 pigs unconscious immediately.

We only had two animals that required a secondary step which means that you would use a different method to euthanize them after the first one to ensure that they die. This was only done because they weren't returning to consciousness but had atypical cardiac, their hearts continued to beat for awhile or atypical responses.

In our neonate or our larger piglets, which are ranging from three to nine kilograms, we also have an extremely high success rate. A hundred percent again are rendered insensible.

We've had only a couple of secondary steps for those. We're a little bit, very conservative and very cautious during our studies. Those pigs would have died shortly after our cut-off of ten minutes.


Dr Widowski says this means there is a now an easy much more aesthetic way to euthanize pigs on farms.

She says developers are now seeking a company that can take on commercial scale manufacturing of the device.

For UniversityNews.Org, I'm Bruce Cochrane.