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On September 18, 2015 the USA Government and the American egg producers announced that they would accept the Ventilation shutdown method as a method of mass destruction of poultry when other options, notably water-based foam and CO2, are not available for culling at the farm within 24-36 hours. This is actually the case on all caged layer farms in the USA, in particular in Iowa.
The Ventilation shutdown method consists of stopping ventilation, cutting off drinking water supply, and turning on heaters to raise the temperature in the poultry house to a level between 38 Celsius and 50 Celsius. Birds die of heat stress and by lack of oxygen in a process that easily takes over after a period of at least 3 days. Ventilation shutdown is a killing method without prior stunning of the birds, and as such is contrary to all international Animal Welfare standards.
Animal welfare specialists in disease control strongly oppose this introduction of the cruelest method of killing poultry that lost their economic value. The Humane Society (HSUS) described it as the “inhumane mass baking of live chickens”. With adequate preparation the alternative methods, like the water-based Anoxia foam method, can be available at each farm for immediate use in case of an outbreak. The ban of the Ventilation shutdown method should therefore be maintained and the Anoxia method should be further developed so that is suitable for application to caged layers and turkeys. In Germany, such a system is currently under development and will become commercially available soon.
The poultry industry in the USA ignores this development and asks for a formal approval of the Ventilation Shutdown method. Speaking on August 19, 2015, during the United Egg Producers (UEP) national briefing webinar, UEP President Chad Gregory explained that much research is being done concerning the feasibility of such a depopulation program.
“The government, the producers, the states and UEP, we all recognize that depopulation is going to have to happen faster and ideally within 24 hours.”
Quick depopulation of affected flocks is important, Gregory said, because the sooner a flock is depopulated, the risk of the virus going into fans and out into the atmosphere becomes smaller. Gregory said ventilation shutdown – if approved – would probably only be used in a worst-case scenario or when all other euthanasia options have been exhausted. Gregory did not elaborate on how to adequately prevent outbreaks and how to promote more animal-friendly methods.