The U.S. swine industry has again been assaulted by two undercover videos within three weeks of each other, aimed squarely at two of the largest customers of our industry. Unfortunately, several retailers in response to this video have questioned the practice of blunt force trauma for euthanasia.
Blunt force trauma has been an acceptable method of euthanasia for decades and is still accepted by many producers and veterinarians. When administered correctly, it is an effective and humane method of euthanasia. However, it can easily be administered incorrectly and it is clearly not viewed as acceptable by the general public and thus customers of the pork industry.
After a PETA undercover video in September 2008 which – back then – had top meat customers of the U.S. swine industry lamenting the use of blunt force trauma in euthanizing baby pigs, VAST sought a solution to this industry problem. VAST teamed up with the Euthanex Company (www.euthanex.com), a leading developer of humane euthanasia systems for laboratory animals that works with the top medical institutions in the country, and developed the EUTHANEX® AgPro™ system in 2009.
The EUTHANEX AgPro uses an adaptation of Euthanex’s Smartbox™ technology to deliver a precise and controlled level of CO2, resulting in a humane euthanasia system that is effective 100% of the time. Moreover, the AgPro technology, with its simple “push a button and walk away” operating procedure, is worker friendly as it separates animal caretakers from the act of euthanasia. “It is paradoxical to ask employees to provide compassionate care and also to kill, especially in such a fashion (as blunt force trauma),” said Candace Croney of Purdue University and member of the Center for Food Integrity undercover video review team, upon review of one of the recent industry undercover videos.
The recently issued American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) 2013 Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals cites, “The AVMA encourages those using manually applied blunt force trauma to the head as a euthanasia method to actively search for alternative approaches.” The AVMA Guidelines further state: “Gas displacement rate is critical to the humane application of inhaled methods, such that an appropriate pressure-reducing regulator and flow meter combination or equivalent equipment with demonstrated capability for generating the recommended displacement rate for the size container being utilized is absolutely necessary when compressed gases are used for euthanasia.” And further: “Carbon dioxide exposure using a gradual fill method is less likely to cause pain due to nociceptor activation by carbonic acid prior to onset of unconsciousness; a displacement rate from 10% to 30% of the chamber volume/min is recommended.”
“An effective euthanasia system in today’s swine industry should meet three important criteria,” according to Steve Weiss, VAST President. “First and foremost, it must be humane to both the animal and the animal caretaker, and it should also be video-proof. We believe that the EUTHANEX AgPro meets these three criteria better than any other system for humane euthanasia.”
Though the AgPro system was developed years before these Guidelines were issued, the EUTHANEX AgPro and new AgPro 255 (for larger nursery age pigs) meet and exceed these guidelines and have been subjected to several research and field trials to demonstrate effectiveness in humanely euthanizing small pigs and poultry. VAST believes that the AgPro is the most widely used euthanasia technology in the swine industry, deployed in an estimated 25-30% of sow herds in the U.S. To learn more about the EUTHANEX AgPro and new AgPro 255, go to www.v-ast.com.