Review Of Stunning Interventions In Commercial Rabbits At The Time Of Slaughter

animal welfare, carbon dioxide, stunning, rabbits, slaughter
First published in EFSA Supporting Publications
20 January 2015
External Scientific Report

The present document has been produced and adopted by the bodies identified above as author(s). In accordance with Article 36 of Regulation (EC) No 178/2002, this task has been carried out exclusively by the author(s) in the context of a grant agreement between the European Food Safety Authority and the author(s). The present document is published complying with the transparency principle to which the Authority is subject. It cannot be considered as an output adopted by the Authority. The European Food Safety Authority reserves its rights, view and position as regards the issues addressed and the conclusions reached in the present document, without prejudice to the rights of the authors.


EFSA commissioned a comprehensive review of the welfare aspects of carbon dioxide stunning in rabbits to assess whether scientific studies would address criteria outlined in an EFSA guidance on the assessment criteria for studies evaluating the effectiveness of stunning interventions regarding animal protection at the time of killing (EFSA Journal 2013;11(12):3486). The objective was to provide an summary of studies assessing modified atmosphere (using carbon dioxide), electrical and mechanical stunning methods to stun rabbits prior to slaughter. The outcomes of interest were onset of unconsciousness, duration of unconsciousness, and absence of pain, distress, or suffering prior to the onset of unconsciousness. The key electronic databases were searched: Science Citation Index (1900-2014), CAB Abstracts (1910-2014), and MEDLINE (1946-2014). Key conference and the bibliographies of review articles were also manually searched for relevant studies. Study inclusion criteria comprised primary research of any study design investigating the effects of modified atmosphere, electrical and/or mechanical stunning of commercial rabbits on the onset or duration of unconsciousness and/or absence of pain, distress, or suffering prior to the onset of unconsciousness. Risk of bias assessment was only be performed on studies that reported the stun method as requested by the EFSA guidance. Data extraction and study methodological assessment were conducted by two reviewers independently. Data were extracted for two modified atmosphere stunning studies, one mechanical stunning study, and five electrical stunning studies. None of the studies reported all the criteria which are detailed in the EFSA guidance, so no risk of bias assessment was conducted. The two modified atmosphere stunning studies found during this review failed to report several essential points of intervention information as listed in the EFSA Guidance. As a result, the effectiveness of modified atmosphere stunning with respect to animal welfare, as compared to electrical and mechanical stunning methods, could not be assessed.

ALPHA [at] efsa.europa.e
Question Number
On request from