Refined killing methods and staff training necessary to decrease the suffering of pigs


Refined killing methods and staff training necessary to decrease the suffering of pigs

24 July 2020
Pain, fear, impeded movement and respiratory distress are the welfare consequences pigs suffer when killed, according to the outcome of the assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on the welfare of pigs during mass depopulation and individual on-farm killing operations. Other than being slaughtered for human consumption, pigs can be culled for disease control reasons or because of unproductivity, injuries and terminal illness.

On-farm killing and depopulation are covered by the Council Regulation 1099/2009 (Slaughter Regulation), that by derogation in case of depopulation (Article 18(3)) and emergency killing (Article 19) allows for the use of a wide range of methods to kill animals, that often results in animals suffering.

The EFSA experts have listed practices that, because of serious welfare concerns, “should be banned, redesigned or replaced by other practices, leading to better welfare outcomes”. The painful induction of unconsciousness by high CO2 concentration is just one of the methods that the EFSA recommends to ban.

Additionally, the lack of skills or lack of training of the staff working in the killing of pigs are a serious concern for animal welfare, and at the origin of the main hazards identified.

This opinion, together with EFSA previous opinions on slaughter and killing, makes the shortcomings of the current legislation painfully clear, and provides the EU Commission and the EU co-legislators with undeniable facts for the revision of the Slaughter Regulation. It is high time for this revision and ultimately better animal welfare law, and Eurogroup for Animals is actively seeking input for the consultations to create better animal welfare law in Europe.  

With the spreading of African Swine Fever (ASF) and other zoonotic diseases, on-farm killing operations are likely to become more and more frequent. To avoid animal suffering, any derogation to the use of a refined list of species-specific killing methods should be eliminated by the EU law. Any method causing animal suffering must be banned from that list. Finally, more detailed requirements for obtaining the certificate of competence for killing pigs should be inserted in the revised law. This could work as preventive measure to the main hazards identified by EFSA and strictly dependent on the operators skills. 


Francesca Porta, Farm Animals Programme Officer