Effect of amount and frequency of head-only stunning currents on the electroencephalogram and somatosensory evoked potentials in broilers
The effectiveness of head-only electrical stunning of broilers, with a root mean square (RMS) current of 100 or 150 mA delivered using either 50, 400 or 1500 Hz sine wave alternating current (AC), was investigated. The changes occurring in the spontaneous electroencephalogram (EEG) were evaluated using Fast Fourier Transformations (FFT) to determine the impact of the amount and frequency of stunning current on total (2–30 Hz) and relative (13–30 Hz) power contents in the EEG. Induction of epileptiform activity and reduction in the EEG power contents to less than 10% of pre-stun levels from the end of epileptiform activity were used as indicators of effective stunning. The duration of unconsciousness and insensibility was determined on the basis of the return of EEG power contents. In addition, the changes occurring in somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs) were subjectively evaluated to determine the impact of stunning treatments. The results of ANOVA (repeated measures) showed statistically significant effects of interactions between the current frequencies, amount of current and repeated measures on changes in EEG power contents (P<0.001). Stunning broilers with 150 mA delivered using 50 Hz resulted in EEG changes that were indicative of more pronounced neuronal inhibition following epileptiform activity and also lasted longer than was the case when broilers were stunned with 150 mA delivered using 400 Hz. Stunning broilers with 100 mA delivered using 50 Hz resulted in changes very similar to those observed after stunning with 150 mA of 50 Hz, but which lasted for a relatively shorter time. However, these changes were more pronounced and lasted longer than did stunning with 100 mA delivered using 400 Hz. The effects of stunning broilers with 150 mA of 400 Hz were similar to those found after stunning with 100 mA of 50 Hz. By contrast, stunning broilers with 100 mA of 1500 Hz failed to fulfil the criteria set out in this study. Stunning of broilers with 150 mA of 1500 Hz induced epileptiform activity but failed to reduce EEG power contents to less than 10% of pre-stun levels. Therefore, the stunning of broilers with 100 or 150 mA of 1500 Hz may not be adequate to avoid pain and suffering during slaughter. Thus, minimum currents of 100, 150 and 200 mA should be delivered whilst using 50, 400 and 1500 Hz, respectively, to achieve effective electrical stunning in broilers. Severing of the carotid arteries in the neck following head-only electrical stunning, and high frequency (>125 Hz) electrical water bath stunning of broilers should also become a statutory requirement to prevent the return of consciousness during bleeding.
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