Poultry Euthanasia Methods for On-Farm Mass Depopulation
Typically, on-farm euthanasia and depopulation is an infrequent practice and should be reserved as a last resort; however, in some cases, large numbers of animals are required to be depopulated on-farm in an emergency such as a disease outbreak or natural disaster.
It is crucial during planned on-farm depopulation that high poultry welfare standards are observed. Therefore; only acceptable euthanasia methods should be used.
When determining the appropriate euthanasia method poultry producers should consider:
- Technical and equipment requirements
- Human safety
The Codes of practice for the care and handling of hatching eggs, breeders, chicken and turkeys as well as the Code of practice for care and handling of pullets and laying hens, represent the industry standards for methods of euthanasia as well as requirements for mass depopulation. These codes are also used by Ministry of the Solicitor General, which administers the Provincial Animal Welfare Services (PAWS) Act, to help guide education and decision-making pertaining to animal welfare issues on farm. Financial hardship is not a defense for compromising animal welfare.
With any euthanasia method, technical equipment and practices must ensure welfare of the animals. When applying any method, the birds must be rendered insensible rapidly and must not return to sensibility prior to death. All forms of euthanasia require a second method if animals return to sensibility or if the equipment malfunctions. This stipulation as well as additional information on proper techniques that meet the relevant codes and requirements is described in resources from the Poultry Industry Council - Practical Guidelines for On-Farm Euthanasia of Poultry.
Individuals who euthanize birds MUST be competent in the appropriate euthanasia methods as per the Codes of practice, and confirmation of death must be made before carcass disposal, which must adhere to provincial regulations.
Mass depopulation can take an emotional toll on producers as well as on family and support staff. Producers are encouraged to use the resources available on the OMAFRA website - Mental Health for Farmers.
According to the Codes of Practice for the care and handling of hatching eggs, breeders, chickens and turkeys and the Codes of Practice for the care and handling of pullets and laying hens, the following are examples of acceptable methods of on-farm euthanasia when proper technique and instructions are followed.
- CO2 inhalation for whole barn gassing
- CO2 with a Modified Atmosphere Chamber (MAC Cart)
- Non-penetrating captive bolt
- Manual Cervical Dislocation
Please refer to the Codes of Practice for the complete list of euthanasia methods. Advice of a veterinarian should be pursued if further direction is needed.
Poultry producers are reminded of additional requirements for mass depopulation as set out by the Codes.
- A mass depopulation plan must be available or accessible.
- If not using a method listed in Appendix B - Methods of Euthanasia, methods for depopulating large groups of birds on-farm must be undertaken in consultation with a veterinarian.
- Individuals who are involved in mass depopulation must be competent in the methods used.
- All equipment used for depopulating birds must be maintained in good working order.
- Death must be confirmed before disposal of birds.
- In consultation with a veterinarian or other qualified advisor, a written protocol for planned on-farm depopulation must be developed for operations that depopulate on-farm.
- An acceptable method for euthanizing birds must be used. Refer to Appendix E: Acceptable Methods of Euthanasia.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs does not recommend any specific method of euthanasia described herein. Producers must determine which method is appropriate for their individual circumstances. Producers should ensure compliance with all legislative requirements and ensure adequate safety precautions are used. OMAFRA is not liable for injuries or damages resulting from the use of the euthanasia methods listed below.
- Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. Humane Mass Depopulation of Animals - Position Statement. 2016
- AVMA Guidelines for the depopulation of animals.
- OMAFRA Mental Health for Farmers - First Aid Kit
- Poultry Industry Council- Euthanasia Resources and Training Materials
- Code of practice for the care and handling of pullets and laying hens
- Code of practice for the care and handling of hatching eggs, breeders, chicken and turkeys
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