Aversion to nitrogen and carbon dioxide mixtures for stunning pigs
Inhalation of concentrations greater than 30% of carbon dioxide (CO2) by volume in atmospheric air causes aversion in pigs. The objective of this study was to assess, using aversion learning techniques and behavioural studies, the aversion to three alternative gas mixtures
of nitrogen (N2) and CO2: 70% N2 and 30% CO2 (70N30C), 80% N2 and 20% CO2 (80N20C) and 85% N2 and 15% CO2 (85N15C). The experiment consisted of two trials of three groups of ten pigs each. Pigs were placed
individually at the starting point of the test facility and allowed to enter the crate of a dip-lift stunning system during one control session with atmospheric air and three treatment sessions with one of the gas treatments in each group. When the pit contained any of the three gas mixtures,
the time taken to cross the raceway and enter the crate did not increase compared to the control session. However, when exposed to the gas mixtures, the majority (85.80%) of pigs performed attempted retreats in the crate, 22.22% exhibited escape attempts, and 7.91% vocalised, without differences
between gas mixtures. The percentage of pigs gasping was higher when exposed to 70N30C compared to 80N20C and 85N15C. The results suggest that pigs show signs of aversion to the inhalation of 15 to 30% CO2 in nitrogen atmosphere compared to atmospheric air but the aversion response
did not increase in consecutive sessions.