In today’s news many headlines indicate the severity of the current gas shortages which Britain is currently facing such as the current surge in gas prices and the knock-on effect this crisis will have on the UK’s food security.
There have already been several reports of both farmers and meat processors indicating that these C02 shortages could lead to the eventual “Cancellation of Christmas” and that the meat industry is currently at a breaking point which is affecting the slaughtering process of pigs, poultry, and beef as well as the packaging process.
Before death billions of animals slaughtering in the UK breathe in carbon dioxide a technique of slaughter known as gassing. This technique is the most common slaughter technique for a majority of farmed animals primarily as it is the cheapest and fastest way to kill several animals all at the one time and although it has often been thought of as causing less suffering than other visibly more brutal methods, this is not true, and gassing methods can cause dreadful suffering to animals in their last moments.
Pigs are placed into a chamber containing at least 70% carbon dioxide (C02) in air and during this time, they will struggle, gasping for breath, trampling over each other until they finally lose consciousness. The length of time it takes to kill pigs and the severe distress it causes, has led to various calls to ban the CO2 stunning method. The pigs must remain in the gas mixture until they are completely unconscious which can take up to 30 seconds. After this, the animals are then shackled by one hind leg, hoisted and their throats cut to drain their blood.
A majority of poultry birds killed within the UK also face a similar fate. Birds are transported to slaughterhouses in crates and then, whilst still in the crates, they are placed into a chamber and exposed to either concentrations of carbon dioxide or a mixture of inert gases (nitrogen and argon). The gas mixture deprives birds of oxygen, which causes them to lose consciousness and die.
So essentially in a nutshell, C02 is used to kill millions of animals each year in the UK and the current shortage of C02 could pose significant delays to the number of animals processed for slaughter.
Factory farmed animals are often bred and reared in overcrowded sheds and often suffer from disease, injury, and psychological problems as a result. In these environments profits take priority over animal welfare.
Conditions on factory farms are likely to deteriorate even further and animals will experience prolonged suffering on factory farms if delays occur at slaughterhouses as the industry is predicting. There are also reports from the industry regarding the possibility of animals being killed on the farms themselves, should the issue continue.