Low Atmospheric Pressure Stunning (LAPS) is a newer form of stunning (inducing unconsciousness prior to slaughter) which may offer significant welfare improvements over the main methods, gas and electrical stunning. Its use in Australia should be considered.
In a LAPS system, birds in their transport containers are placed in a sealed chamber, and the atmospheric pressure is reduced using controlled slow decompression with a vacuum pump. This results in gradual and painless non-recoverable unconsciousness.
Research suggests that LAPS may offer a more humane method of stunning if decompression occurs at a rate at which the body cavities can adjust (i.e. no air is trapped within the body cavities). A report by the European Food Safety Authority concluded that LAPS is acceptable for commercial slaughter of meat chickens weighing less than 4 kg.
Potential benefits of LAPS for bird welfare include:
- Uniformity – all birds are exposed to the same pressure at the same time. This is a benefit over both gas stunning and electric stunning methods.
- Eliminates live bird handling and shackling which cause stress – similar to gas stunning.
- No aversive gases – there is debate over which are the most humane gases to use. Birds may experience pain during gas stunning if high concentrations of carbon dioxide are used.
- Reduced stress – the birds are able to be placed into the LAPS in their transport containers in darkness.