Animal welfare assessment of on-farm euthanasia methods for individual, heavy turkeys
Bourassa, Dianna, V
Boyal, Ranjit S.
Harris, Caitlin E.
Josselson, L. Nicole Bartenfeld
Buhr, R. Jeff
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On-farm euthanasia of poultry, including turkeys, may not be possible for most people as birds gain weight; thus alternative mechanical methods have been developed. Our objective was to compare mechanical cervical dislocation with the Koechner Euthanizing Device (KED), captive bolt euthanasia with the Turkey Euthanasia Device (TED), head-only CO2 euthanasia (CO2), and electric euthanasia as potential humane methods for euthanizing individual, heavy turkeys. We assessed their impact on loss of brain stem reflexes, acute distress (corticosterone, CORT), kill success, torn skin, and blood loss. Turkeys (n 5 174) were euthanized on 3 sampling days, while birds were restrained using a mobile bird euthanasia apparatus. Brain stem reflexes recorded were the cessation and return of induced nictitating membrane reflex (loss of consciousness and brain stem dysfunction), mouth gaping reflex (brain stem dysfunction), and musculoskeletal movements (spinal cord dysfunction). Overall, KED resulted in more frequent (at 4 min: KED 7 of 14; electric 0 of 13; TED 0 of 11; CO2 2 of 14 birds on day 1) and longer durations of the induced nictitating reflex compared to the other methods (means of day 2 and 3: KED 233; electric 15; TED 15; CO2 15 s). The mouth gaping reflex endured the longest after KED euthanasia (means of day 2 and 3: KED 197; electric 15; TED 51; CO2 15 s). Musculoskeletal movements endured longest after KED euthanasia (means of day 2 and 3: KED 235; electric 15; TED 219; CO2 15 s). Returning reflexes were more frequent after KED and TED compared to CO2 and electric euthanasia, where it was absent. CO2, electric, and TED euthanasia showed comparable kill success (success: CO2 42 out of 43; electric 44 of 45; TED 42 of 44), with KED resulting in most unsuccessful kills (unsuccessful: 8 out of 42). CORT responses were inconsistent. Torn skin and blood loss occurred more frequently after KED and TED compared to CO2 and electric applications. Therefore, we conclude that, based on a comparison of these 4 methods, the most discernibly humane was electric euthanasia, which consistently resulted in quick loss of consciousness within 15 s, no returning reflexes, and no torn skin or blood loss.