'We are better than this' - Animal activists outraged over piglets killed in gas chambers

Fifteen piglets were killed in gas chambers in 2018 to investigate “humane alternatives” to current euthanasia practices on farms.

Piglets. (File photo) Source:

By Sam Wat

The experiments conducted by Massey University exposed pre-weaned piglets to several gases: carbon dioxide (CO2), argon (Ar), or a mixture of both.

The scientists recorded the responses as the animals died from lack of oxygen - an experiment that has outraged animal activists.

The New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society (NZAVS), who uncovered the study, told 1 NEWS it’s horrific that “baby pigs are being repeatedly suffocated to death”.

The research found “all gases tested caused signs of stress prior to piglets losing consciousness”.

Those stress indicators included convulsions, hyperventilation, and attempts to escape.

A Massey University spokesperson said the purpose of the research was to “evaluate the welfare” of pigs induced to the gases, and highlights “the need for studies investigating alternative methods”.

Pigs must be “rapidly rendered insensible and remain in that state until death”, according to the Code of Welfare for Pigs.

It took one piglet nearly seven minutes before it stopped breathing.

The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) told 1 NEWS “it is important that this work can be carried out so that there is an evidence base to make progress in animal welfare”.

This experiment is similar to another undertaken by the university in 2011, which used the same combination of gases.

Both reached the same conclusion that the gases posed significant welfare issues.

They were both funded by the American Pork Board, which the NZAVS’ executive director Tara Jackson finds suspicious.

“We’re speculating they could be trying to get results that suit them best,” she said.

Massey University rejected the claims, saying the studies were funded “to solve a problem”.

“This is not a study looking at slaughter.”

Stunning animals with gas is becoming more common on farms in the United States, but blunt force trauma to the head remains the recommended practice in New Zealand.

Jackson said the way New Zealand tackles science needed to change.

“We are better than this and shouldn’t be letting big American companies fund such unethical experiments in New Zealand.”