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Defra to fund research into pig stunning methods
Pig
Research shows that pigs find direct exposure to CO2 aversive.
Project to develop more humane methods of slaughter

Research into alternatives to the use of carbon dioxide for the commercial slaughter of pigs will be jointly funded by Defra, it has been announced.

The Humane Slaughter Association (HSA) and Defra are offering up to £400,000 for a project to develop a more humane ways to stun pigs at slaughter.

It is common practice for pigs to be exposed to high concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) before slaughter, particularly in the UK and other EU member states.

But research shows that pigs find direct exposure to CO2 aversive. In 2003, a report published by the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) recommended that this method should be phased out.

A report by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) confirmed the effectiveness of the method, but noted that it resulted in respiratory distress in pigs. The HSA said that similar concerns expressed for poultry and alternative controlled atmosphere systems are now in use within the poultry industry.

Defra and the HSA said that they are both committed to improving the welfare of animals at slaughter and the funding aims to develop a more humane method which could replace high-concentration CO2 stunning of pigs.

They add that the project aims to ensure that any proposed method is not only more humane but also practically and economically viable so that it is likely to be widely adopted by the pig industry.

“The HSA hopes that this collaborative funding opportunity with Defra will lead to improvements in the welfare of pigs at the time of slaughter,” commented HSA’s chief executive & scientific director Dr Robert Hubrecht.

Welcoming the announcement, the National Pig Association (NPA) said it was pleased funding has been made available for research into new methods.

NPA senior policy advisor Georgina Crayford said: “We also welcome HSA’s acknowledgement that new methods need to be commercially viable to ensure roll out but, until an alternative is found, CO2 stunning remains best practice.”

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Scheme to protect wildlife and reduce flooding

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 Natural England has announced a new scheme to improve flood protection, boost wildlife and create 160 hectares of new saltmarsh. The £6 million scheme in Lancashire will effectively unite the RSPB’s Hesketh Out Marsh Reserve and Natural England’s Ribble Estuary National Nature Reserve. The completed reserve will be the largest site of its kind in the north of England. 

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Welfare event to discuss ethical dilemmas faced by vets

Students and ethics experts will host an event on the difficult moral challenges facing vets. Ethical issues, such as euthanasia and breeding animals for certain physical traits, will be discussed by prominent speakers including TV vet Emma Milne and RSPCA chief vet James Yeates. Other topics will include how to tackle suspected animal abuse and the extent of surgical intervention.

The conference will look at how these dilemmas affect the wellbeing of vets, and explore how to better prepare veterinary students for work. It will be held at the University of Edinburgh’s Easter Bush Campus from 30 September - 1 October 2017. Tickets can be purchased here.