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Humanely Ending the Life of Animals: Research Priorities to Identify Alternatives to Carbon Dioxide

By Aline R. Steiner, Shannon Axiak Flammer, Ngaio J. Beausoleil, Charlotte Berg, Regula Bettschart-Wolfensberger, Rebeca García Pinillos, Huw D.R. Golledge, Michael Marahrens, Robert Meyer, Tobias Schnitzer, Michael J. Toscano, Patricia V. Turner, Daniel M. Weary, Thomas C. Gent

Category Journal Articles

The use of carbon dioxide (CO2) for stunning and killing animals is considered to compromise welfare due to air hunger, anxiety, fear, and pain. Despite decades of research, no alternatives have so far been found that provide a safe and reliable way to induce unconsciousness in groups of animals, and also cause less distress than CO2. Here, we revisit the current and historical literature to identify key research questions that may lead to the identification and implementation of more humane alternatives to induce unconsciousness in mice, rats, poultry, and pigs. In addition to the evaluation of novel methods and agents, we identify the need to standardise the terminology and behavioural assays within the field. We further reason that more accurate measurements of consciousness state are needed and serve as a central component in the assessment of suffering. Therefore, we propose a roadmap toward improving animal welfare during end-of-life procedures.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2019
Publication Title Animals
Volume 9
Issue 11
Pages 25
Publisher MDPI
DOI 10.3390/ani9110911
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal welfare
  2. Aversion
  3. Carbon dioxide
  4. Euthanasia
  5. open access
  6. Pigs
  7. Poultry
  8. Rodents
  1. open access