Is sodium fluoroacetate (1080) a humane poison?
Sodium fluoroacetate (1080) is widely used for the control of vertebrate pests in Australia. While the ecological impact of 1080 baiting on non-target species has been the subject of ongoing research, the animal welfare implications of this practice have received little attention. Literature relevant to the humaneness of 1080 as a vertebrate pest control agent is reviewed in this paper. Previous authors have largely concentrated on the perception of pain during 1080 toxicosis, giving limited attention to other forms of distress in their assessments. Authors who suggest that 1080 is a humane poison largely base their conclusions on the argument that convulsive seizures seen in the final stages of 1080 toxicosis indicate that affected animals are in an unconscious state and unable to perceive pain. Other authors describe awareness during seizures or periodic lucidity that suggests central nervous system (CNS) disruption cannot be assumed to produce a constant pain-free state. Some literature report that 1080 poisoning in humans is painless and free of distress, but this is contradicted by other clinical studies. Using available data an attempt is made to reassess the humaneness of 1080 using the following criteria: speed and mode of action, appearance and behaviour of affected animals, experiences of human victims, long-term effect on survivors, and welfare risk to non-target animals. It is concluded that sodium fluoroacetate should not be considered a humane poison, and there is an urgent need for research into improving the humaneness of vertebrate control methods in Australia.
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