Europe’s CO2 Shortage Forces Abattoirs to Cease Slaughter

The Europe-wide shortage of carbon dioxide is having a “critical impact” on UK abattoirs amid rising concerns for animal welfare.

Carbon dioxide gas is currently used to stun animals during the slaughter process, but as the industry faces the “worst CO2 shortage in decades”, abattoirs have began to slow, or even cease, their slaughtering entirely.

Pigs in an abattoir photo taken by Jo-Anne McArthur

Image credit: Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals

It’s no secret that animals slaughtered with or without CO2-stunning suffer immense pain and terror. All animals killed for their bodies endure a terrifying trip to the abattoir, and, even when CO2 is abundant, many are killed while still conscious.

Scotland’s biggest abattoir, Quality Pork, who are responsible for slaughtering 6,000 pigs per week, have had to temporarily shut down due to their lack of CO2. The abattoir is already in danger of overcrowding and has begun short-term solutions such as transporting the pigs to English abattoirs, which adds even more stress to these animals as they are packed tightly into lorries during the UK’s heatwave.

Other businesses, such as poultry producer 2 Sisters, who slaughter 6 million chickens in the UK per week, swapped to using electricity instead, which is reportedly an even less-humane stun-method. During this process chickens are typically shackled by their legs whilst their heads are forced into an electric water bath, all before their throats are slit. This stunning process is often ineffective, and the birds may regain consciousness as they bleed out and are defeathered in tanks of boiling water. 2 Sisters’ willingness to revert to such barbaric stun-methods shows that the meat industry views animals as nothing more than machines, rather than sensitive individuals with their own thoughts, feelings and personalities.

This CO2 shortage shows no signs of easing: as well as across Europe, this week Mexico became the latest country to be hit by a supply shortage.

As these supply problems for CO2 continue to spiral out of control, the animal-slaughter industry will struggle to keep to their own standards of animal welfare.

Perhaps, this forced-stoppage in the mass slaughter of innocent animals may give the industry pause to reflect on the chance for a kinder world. We can but hope.

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