Defra to jointly fund research into alternative pig stunning methods

Defra is jointly funding research into finding alternatives to the use of carbon dioxide (CO2) to stun pigs pre-slaughter.

The Department and the Humane Slaughter Association (HSA) are jointly offering up to £400,000 of research funding for a project to develop a more humane way to stun pigs during commercial slaughter.

The stunning of pigs by direct exposure to high concentrations of CO2 is currently common practice for the commercial slaughter of pigs, including in the UK and other EU member states.

However, HSA said research has shown that pigs find direct exposure to high concentrations of CO2 ‘aversive’. It cited a 2003 Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) report on animal welfare which recommended that this method should be phased out.

The following year, a report by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) confirmed the effectiveness of the method, but noted that it resulted in respiratory distress in pigs. Similar concerns were expressed for poultry and alternative controlled atmosphere systems are now in use within the poultry industry, HSA said.

The association said it and Defra were both committed to improving the welfare of animals at slaughter and that the funding aimed to develop and or validate a ‘more humane method which could replace high-concentration CO2 stunning of pigs’. The project aims to ensure that any proposed method is not only more humane but also practically and economically viable so that it is likely to be widely adopted by the pig industry, HSA said.

HSA’s chief executive & scientific director Dr Robert Hubrecht said: “The HSA hopes that this collaborative funding opportunity with Defra will lead to improvements in the welfare of pigs at the time of slaughter.”

NPA senior policy advisor Georgina Crayford said: “We are pleased funding has been made available for research into new methods.

“We also welcome HSA’s acknowledgement that new methods need to be commercially viable to ensure roll out but, until an alternative is found, CO2 stunning remains best practice.”

The funding opportunity

  • For further information on the funding and how to apply, see
  • Applications and any enquiries about the funding will need to be made through Defra’s electronic tendering portal Bravo –
  • Deadline for submissions is 12.00 GMT on Monday, August 28 2017.

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Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.