Two pig abattoirs (A and B) equipped with an automated head-only and head-to-chest electrical stunning system, and two (C and D) equipped with a manual carbon dioxide stunning system, were evaluated to compare the effectiveness of stunning in a total of 10,454 pigs slaughtered under commercial conditions. In the abattoirs with the electrical stunning system, the percentage of animals that responded to a nose prick was significantly lower (P<0.05) in abattoir B, where a higher current intensity was used (P<0.05), than in abattoir A. No righting reflex was observed in the electrically stunned pigs. In the abattoirs with the carbon dioxide stunning system, the percentage of animals that responded to a nose prick and showed a righting reflex was significantly lower (P<0.05) in abattoir C, where the duration of the carbon dioxide cycle was longer and the interval between discharge from the system to sticking was shorter (P<0.05), than in D. Comparing the electrical and carbon dioxide stunning systems, the pigs stunned with carbon dioxide were significantly more responsive to a nose prick (P<0.05) and 25 per cent of them showed a righting reflex. Under the conditions of the study the fully automated head-only stunning with additional chest electrodes appeared to be more effective and less susceptible to incorrect handling than the manual carbon dioxide stunning system.
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