Jacobs, L., Bourassa, D. V., Harris, C. E. et al. 2019. Euthanasia: Manual versus mechanical cervical dislocation for broilers. Animals 9(2), 47.

The aim was to assess the onset of brain stem death for two euthanasia methods—manual cervical dislocation (CD) versus the Koechner Euthanizing Device (KED). Over three days broilers of 36 (n = 60), 42 (n = 80), or 43 days old (n = 60) were euthanized. On days 2 and 3, a treatment was added in which the bird’s head was extended at a ~90° angle after application of the KED (KED+). On those days, gap size was recorded between the skull and atlas vertebra by 1-cm increments. The onset of brain death was assessed by recording the nictitating membrane reflex, gasping reflex and musculoskeletal movements (sec). Additionally, skin damage and blood loss were recorded (y/n). On all days, CD resulted in quicker loss of reflexes and movements compared to KED or KED+. Reflexes returned in 0–15% of CD birds, 50–55% of KED birds, and 40–60% of KED+ birds, possibly regaining consciousness. Skin damage occurred in 0% of CD birds, 68–95% of KED birds, and 85–95% of KED+ birds. On day 2 (p = 0.065) and 3 (p = 0.008), KED birds had or tended to have a narrower skull-to-atlas gap compared to CD and KED+ birds. Based on our results, CD would be the recommended method for broilers.

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