Science - August 25, 2011

Magnets can stun chickens for slaughter

Researcher Bert Lambooij has tested a new method to stun chickens before they are slaughtered. Using rapidly spinning magnetic fields, this method could be acceptable in ritual slaughters.

The research equipment with the two magnets.
Lambooij placed chickens between two strong magnets and let their electromagnetic fields spin rapidly round. The magnetic field of the brains of the chickens spin in the other direction as a result and cause the chickens to become unconscious This 'electromagnetic stimulation' is being used to treat people suffering from  depression, but with magnetic fields spinning less quickly. Lambooij borrowed such an equipment from a British company to test if chickens can be stunned before they are slaughtered.
His conclusion: it works. 'We have the proof of principle.'  To make sure that the chickens are stunned effectively and with a long-lasting effect, stronger magnets are needed and the work method has to be improved, he says. His results have been published in Animal Welfare in early August.
The novelty in this method is to 'invoke the stunning from the outside' and that nothing is being done to the body of the animal, says Lambooij. As such, this method could be accepted within religious circles with strict requirements at ritual slaughters. Two months ago, Jewish organizations brought Wageningen UR to court because Lambooij has suggested in a memorandum to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation that the slaughter of animals without first stunning them goes against animal welfare practices. The Dutch Second Chamber has meanwhile approved a law which makes it compulsory to stun animals before slaughter.
Currently, most chickens are stunned before slaughter in a water bath through which electricity is conducted, but research has shown that some of the chickens are not stunned in this way. Very soon, a new method will be used to stun only the head of the chicken. The stunning equipment is currently being tested by its builder in a slaughterhouse. Lambooij has written about this in a publication last year. Whether the method using magnets would be developed further is still uncertain. Interest has been shown, though.

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