Walsh, J., Percival, A., Turner, P. 2017. Efficacy of blunt force trauma, a novel mechanical cervical dislocation device, and a non-penetrating captive bolt device for on-farm euthanasia of pre-weaned kits, growers, and adult commercial meat rabbits. Animals 7(12), 100.
The commercial meat rabbit industry is without validated on-farm euthanasia methods, potentially resulting in inadequate euthanasia protocols. We evaluated blunt force trauma (BFT), a mechanical cervical dislocation device (MCD), and a non-penetrating captive bolt device (NPCB) for euthanasia of pre-weaned kits, growers, and adult rabbits. Trials were conducted on three commercial meat rabbit farms using 170 cull rabbits. Insensibility was assessed by evaluating absence of brainstem and spinal reflexes, rhythmic breathing, and vocalizations. Survey radiographs on a subsample of rabbits (n = 12) confirmed tissue damage prior to gross dissection and microscopic evaluation. All 63 rabbits euthanized by the NPCB device were rendered immediately and irreversibly insensible. The MCD device was effective in 46 of 49 (94%) rabbits. Method failure was highest for BFT with euthanasia failures in 13 of 58 (22%) rabbits. Microscopically, brain sections from rabbits killed with the NPCB device had significantly more damage than those from rabbits killed with BFT (p = 0.001). We conclude that BFT is neither consistently humane nor effective as a euthanasia method. MCD is an accurate and reliable euthanasia method generally causing clean dislocation and immediate and irreversible insensibility, and the NPCB device was 100% effective and reliable in rabbits >150 g.