Helping Chickens "Cross to the Other Side"?

Animal Rights Articles

Moo-ving people toward compassionate living

Visit our Home Page
Write us with your comments

Helping Chickens "Cross to the Other Side"?

[Ed. Note: Unfortunately, the NY Times has not yet chosen to publish this great article about "humane" gassing of billions of chickens prior to their being slaughtered.]

From Karen Davis, United Poultry Concerns
November 2010

October 22, 2010
Letters to the Editor
The New York Times

Dear Editor:

My letter is a response to “New Way to Help Chickens Cross to Other Side,” by William Neuman, Oct. 21, 2010:

I disagree with the view set forth in this article that CO2 (carbon dioxide gassing) is a humane method of killing chickens. It is most likely less cruel than the conventional method of dragging conscious birds through electrically-charged saltwater to paralyze their muscles in order to facilitate feather removal after they are dead (and to immobilize the birds on the slaughter line), but anything is likely to be better than being riddled with electric shocks.

Evidence shows that birds, like mammals, have chemical receptors in their lungs that are acutely sensitive to CO2, with the result that subjection to this toxic gas induces pain, panic, suffocation and breathlessness (dyspnea), in those who inhale it.

By contrast, chickens and other birds do not have the chemical receptors in their lungs to detect inert gases such as argon and nitrogen, which is why animal welfare proponents, including scientists like Dr. Mohan Raj, have fought for decades for poultry slaughter plants to switch from electrical “stunning” to the stun/kill method of inducing permanent unconsciousness in poultry by means of nitrogen/argon.

Behavioral evidence supports the biological evidence. Whereas chickens subjected to CO2 show clear signs of distress, shaking their heads and stretching their necks to breathe, chickens in the presence of argon or nitrogen exhibit no comparable signs of suffering.

Poultry companies sincerely wishing to reduce the suffering of their birds to a minimum should bypass CO2 and invest in inert gas systems. Then their proposed “humane” labels will have at least a semblance of truth.

Thank you for your attention.


Karen Davis, PhD, President
United Poultry Concerns