High-concentration CO2 stunning of pigs: the European Parliament approves funding to move away from the cruel practice
For immediate release: Brussels 12/11/2020
On November 12, the European Parliament (EP) voted in favour of a preparatory action, initially tabled by MEP Fredrick Federley (RE, SE), aimed at finding alternatives to high-concentration CO2 stunning or killing of pigs. The EC will then invest in applied research to move away from this method, which, in spite of being inherently inhumane, is the most frequently used in all major EU pig slaughterhouses.
Already in 2019, Eurogroup for Animals published a position paper urging the European Commission to fund research into alternatives, with a view to phasing out this method by 1 January 2025. The use of high-concentration CO2 for the stunning or killing of pigs is allowed by EU Regulation 1099/2009 (the Slaughter Regulation). However, exposure to CO2 is highly aversive for the animals and causes acute pain and severe distress from first exposure to the gas to loss of consciousness.
This was recently confirmed by the latest EFSA opinion on the welfare of pigs at slaughter, which concluded that “There are no preventive or corrective measures to the pain, fear and respiratory distress caused by the exposure to high CO2 concentrations as this is inherent to the stunning method. The only way to prevent the hazard related to exposure to high CO2 concentrations is to use other gas mixtures like inert gasses or mixture of inert gases containing low CO2 concentrations”.
By voting in favour of this research project, the European Parliament sent a strong signal on the importance of EU-funded research into animal welfare friendly alternatives to CO2 stunning of pigs. For the first time, a substantial sum will be invested by the EC in an applied research project to find painless alternatives for pig stunning. The outcome of the study should lead to a prohibition of CO2 stunning of pigs through the updating of the legislation.
Reineke hameleers, CEO, Eurogroup for Animals
The EU is currently the first exporter of pig meat in the world, with 5.5. million tonnes of selected pig products exported in 2019 and a stable demand driven by the Chinese market. It is imperative that these animals are stunned painlessly.
The European Commission is going to propose a revision of the current animal welfare acquis as part of the EU Farm to Fork strategy, and the rules on slaughter will be updated in the light of the latest scientific evidence. It is expected that the findings of this preparatory action will contribute to guiding this revision process.
Agnese Marcon, Communications Officer, Eurogroup for Animals
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Eurogroup for Animals represents 70 animal advocacy organisations in 26 EU Member States, Switzerland, Serbia, Norway, Australia and the USA. Since its inception in 1980, the organisation has succeeded in encouraging the EU to adopt higher legal standards for animal protection. Eurogroup for Animals reflects public opinion through its membership organisations’ affiliations across the Union, and has both the scientific and technical expertise to provide authoritative advice on issues relating to animal welfare.