European Parliament discusses suffering of pigs stunned with CO2 – Commission refuses responsibility
European animal welfare organisations and political parties have been criticising the stunning of slaughter pigs with carbon dioxide for years. CO2 stunning is, from the point of view of animal welfare, a “torturous stunning method, because the pigs suffer from pain and panic for up to 60 seconds”, says project manager Sabrina Gurtner, Animal Welfare Foundation.
Already 10 years ago, the European Food Safety Authority EFSA asked the Member States to phase out stunning by CO2, as it is no humane method. “Now the European Parliament has for the first time addressed this topic”, declares Sabrina Gurtner.
In a letter (dated 03.02.2015) to animal welfare organisations the Commission admits that the use of CO2 “is not optimal for the welfare of the pigs“, but delegates the responsibility “to the meat industry, equipment manufacturers and the Member States’ research institutions“.
Scientific research has shown for years that the common method of CO2 stunning is problematic for animal welfare reasons. In Germany alone, 70 percent of the 58 million annually slaughtered pigs are stunned with this gas. Already in 2004, the German Bundestag asked, as a reaction to a request of the party Alliance 90/The Greens, that a working group be established to investigate alternatives of stunning. Since then, nothing has been done.
Only recently, the Max-Rubner-Institut in Germany (formerly Federal Institution for Meat Research) has, in the context of an investigation on the inert gas argon, pointed to the problems of CO2 stunning. A scientific film made by the Dutch animal welfare organisation Eyes on Animals impressively shows how pigs suffer in the CO2 chambers in commercial slaughterhouses in Europe. The pigs scream up to 60 seconds from stress, irritation, and then complete panic caused by hyperventilation and the burning sensation of inhaling CO2. “In the common reports on slaughter processes with CO2 stunning it always sounds very peaceful, because one does not see what happens in the CO2 basins. In the film, the camera goes down with the pigs and shows that CO2 is clearly aversive and not immediate“, says Sabrina Gurtner.
For years, animal welfare organisations have been criticising the CO2 stunning for being cruel. Now the European Parliament has, for the first time, discussed this issue in the context of an interparliamentary meeting. “We consider this as a success of the joint efforts of several European animal welfare organisations and Eurogroup for Animals, the European party for animals as well as members of the European Parliament.“
About 40 Members of the European Parliament of various political groups attended the Intergroup meeting, among whom were Intergroup’s Chairman Janusz Wojciechowski, who is also vice-president of the Agriculture Committee; Renate Sommer of EEP (the largest European fraction); Petras Austrvicius of the Liberal fraction; Anja Hazekamp and Stefan Eck of European United Left – Nordic Green Left.
They expressed their willingness to address the issue. Janusz Wojciechovski is planning on writing a letter to all EU member states to encourage monitoring slaughter. He also suggests organizing a public hearing in the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, a proposal that received a lot of acclaim. The possibility to make a written declaration signed by Members of Parliament from all political groups about inhumane slaughter methods was discussed as well. Written declarations put issues on the political agenda in Europa if they are supported by a majority of the Members of Parliament.
In the film, the camera goes down with the pigs and shows that CO2 is clearly aversive and not immediate.Sabrina Gurtner, Project Manager at Animal Welfare Foundation