Animal research

Welfare research leads to European law reform

Research aimed at improving bird welfare during poultry production has led to a change in EU law.

The new regulation makes it legal in the European Union to use a new method of stunning chickens for food production after researchers proved it to be humane.

Gradual process

The technique – called Low Atmospheric Pressure Stunning (LAPS) – renders animals unconscious by gradually lowering atmospheric pressure, which reduces the amount of oxygen available.

The effects are irreversible and LAPS offers a high welfare way of killing chickens.

Welfare assessment

Researchers at the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow completed an innovative and comprehensive welfare assessment of the system, based on detailed examination of behaviour and physiology of broiler chickens undergoing the procedure.

They found the technique has advantages for animal welfare compared with current commercial approaches to killing birds for food production.

Law change

Around one billion chickens are killed in the UK each year for food production. Using a more humane method has the potential to improve animal welfare on a large scale.

Our extensive welfare assessment of LAPS and the resulting change in legislation allowing its use in broiler chickens in the EU, demonstrates high impact science and its application to improve animal welfare.

Dr Jessica MartinLecturer in Animal Welfare, University of Edinburgh

Food production

The researchers are now investigating whether LAPS could improve welfare for other species killed for food production. 

Our work on LAPS provided an extensive welfare assessment of this novel method, which was utilised to underpin policy change at EU level.  The approval of LAPS in Europe is a major development in broiler chicken welfare which paves the way for global uptake of this humane method of stunning.

Dr Dorothy McKeeganLead researcher, University of Glasgow

The research was carried out in collaboration with colleagues at Mississippi State University, University of Arkansas, University of Florida and Wageningen University.