In certain unavoidable circumstances, it becomes necessary to euthanise birds on-farm as an emergency measure to relieve pain and suffering. Cervical dislocation, both manual and mechanical, has traditionally been a widely utilised method for the primary poultry species.
In 2021, a short anonymous survey was held with the approval of the University of Edinburgh Human Ethical Review Committee into the use of cervical dislocation in the UK.
The survey was open from May 2021 to August 2021 and looked at the identification and preference of killing methods used and available, as well as attitudes towards the relevant legislation in the UK.
To read the results of the study click here.
The industries preferences for dispatch methods
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the survey found that the method of dispatch was influenced by the size of the bird. Those working with medium to large birds of 3kg or over had greater availability to mechanical dislocation and captive bolt in comparison to those working with small birds under 3kg.
The survey went on to ask participants what their preferred method of dispatch was. Manual cervical dislocation was the top choice at 81.9% followed by mechanical methods, with the Livetec NEX® at 10.2%, captive bolt gun (cartridge) with 6.5%. Decapitation, overdose of anaesthetic and other were all at 0.5%.
The participants were also asked what they felt about four killing methods – overdose of anaesthetic, decapitation, manual cervical dislocation, the Livetec NEX® and how humane they felt each was. Manual cervical dislocation came in at 91.6%, with the mechanical Livetec NEX® at 79% and captive bolt at 46.9%. Overdose of anaesthetic was the lowest over all other methods.
The most used mechanical cervical dislocation methods:
It was found that mechanical cervical dislocation was made available to 50.2% of the participants. The top 4 methods of dispatch were found to be:
- Livetec NEX® – 42.8%
- Captive bolt – 26%
- Overdose of anaesthetic – 8.4%
- Decapitation – 3.3%
The survey also looked at the frequency that respondents had to dispatch a bird on-farm:
- Daily – 66.5%
- A couple of times a week – 21.9%
- A couple of times a year – 4.7%
- Once a month – 4.2%
- Once a week – 1.9%
What were the reasons to dispatch birds on-farm?
The survey asked the question of when participants would euthanize a bird. All participants agreed that if a bird was unable to walk, participants would “always” kill the bird.
For afflictions such as body/truck injury, deformity, central nervous system problems, wing injury, small/runt bird, head injury and leg injury, they received a higher chance that the bird would ‘always’ be dispatched. For the rest, and all other health conditions it was reported as either ‘sometimes” or “never”.
It was noted that factors such as primary species, sector or farming system had no influence on the reason as to why the bird was killed.
Workers attitudes to key legislation in the UK
The in-depth survey also looked at the attitudes of those caring for poultry towards current legislation.
The Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (England) Regulations 2015 states that “No person engaged in the killing of an animal may cause any avoidable pain, distress or suffering to that animal.” It goes on to expand on this statement with “No person may engage in the killing of an animal unless that person has the knowledge and skill necessary to perform those operations humanely and efficiently.”
With this in mind the survey found that three-quarters of participants agreed to some extent that limiting manual cervical dislocation by bird weight was good for bird welfare. On the subject of manual cervical dislocation, and limiting the number of birds that a single operator could apply the technique to, just over half disagreed that it would protect welfare. That said, when the question was asked about limiting operator fatigue by capping the number of birds the operator could deal with daily, and bird weight, three quarters agreed.
Additionally, it was found that the legislation on weight limits affected the method of dispatch chosen. When dealing with birds of under 3kg just over half of respondents indicated that this did not affect their dispatch method of choice.
Whereas, birds with a weight of up to 5kg, just under four out of five respondents cited mechanical cervical dislocation as the method of choice.
These results are a snapshot of the full survey A decade on: where is the UK poultry industry for emergency on-farm killing? published by Elsevier.
Authors: Jasmine M. Clarkson, Alexandra Paraskevopoulou, Jessica E. Martin
To read the results of the study click here.
Who are Livetec?
Livetec have been leading the way in on-farm biosecurity and high animal welfare for over a decade.
Over this time we have conducted scientific research alongside industry and educational bodies to provide humane on-farm depopulation equipment for when the worst should happen. Our flagship device, which all poultry keepers should adopt for compliance should carry around in their pocket is the award-winning Livetec NEX®.
The Livetec NEX®
The award-winning Livetec NEX® is a simple to use, hand-held depletion device, ensuring straight forward and reliable neck dislocation, everytime.
- Red Tractor approved: EU 1099/2009 and WATOK compliant
- Allows dispatch up to 5kg of birds: Without a limit on numbers
- No restriction on culls per person per day: Only 70 permitted manually
- Scientifically backed: Built on 3 years of academic scientific research and refined through 2 years of intense product development
- Small and compact: It can be carried in your pocket
- Reasonably priced: £49.95 per device plus postage and packaging
Find out more here.
Get a Livetec NEX® today.