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Electrical stunning of red deer (Cervus elaphus)

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Eighteen of 23 red deer (Cervus elaphus) at a deer slaughtering premises were successfully stunned with an apparatus modified from that normally used to stun sheep. The five unsuccessful electrical stuns were associated with poor head restraint and poor head contact by the electrodes. The median stunning current was 0.9 A, and in the majority of cases the duration of stunning was less than 1 second. The signs of the electrically induced epileptiform seizures in the deer were dissimilar to those seen in sheep, cattle and pigs, in that the initial tonic phase was less marked, and of shorter duration. A similar shorter and less obvious tonic phase was noted in four deer shot with a captive bolt pistol. Two animals which were electrically stunned, and bled within 10 seconds, showed no signs of recovery while bleeding. The electroencephalograms of four deer stunned with currents of 1.3 A for a duration of either 0.5 or 1.0 seconds were recorded under more controlled conditions. All four animals developed electroencephalograms typical of an epileptiform seizure. The animals exhibited behavioural reactions similar to the other 18 animals in the trial at the deer slaughtering premises and were rendered unconscious for between 54 and 122 seconds. The electroencephalogram activity amplitude was greater than that recorded immediately before stunning and took between 6 and 9 seconds to build up to maximum value. It is concluded that, providing the heads of deer are adequately restrained, head-only electrical stunning can be incorporated into a humane method of slaughter for deer.

Keywords: Anaesthesia/analgesia; Deer; Slaughter

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1993-09-01

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