Four key areas relevant during welfare inspections related to euthanasia of suckling piglets

Published on
December 30, 2021

In a review, EURCAW-Pigs addresses the underlying scientific knowledge and key areas to focus on during welfare inspections related to on-farm euthanasia of suckling piglets. The necessity to euthanasia occurs particularly during this first period of the life of pigs.


Euthanasia includes ending the life of an individual animal in a way that minimizes or eliminates pain and distress. This corresponds to the general requirement of the Council Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009 to protect animals at the time of killing such that they are spared any avoidable pain, distress or suffering. Any person involved in the stunning or killing of animals should take the necessary measures to avoid pain and minimise distress and suffering during the killing process, considering the best practices in the field.

Key areas and animal-based indicators

An enhanced focus on animal-based indicators (ABI) is recommended in the review, by applying measurable and objective outcome-based criteria on animals. ABI should be used to assess animal welfare at the time of killing. In the review, the following four relevant key areas and corresponding animal welfare indicators are described to assess pig welfare in the killing process:

  1. Appropriate decision-making in relation to euthanasia.
  2. Handling and moving to the killing point.
  3. Killing process (gas killing methods, physical methods including restraint).
  4. Post mortem inspection of the carcass.

One-step procedures recommended

For killing animals, one-step procedures should be primarily used that lead directly to death without the application of any further subsequent killing procedure (e.g. bleeding). These one-step procedures are recommended from an animal welfare perspective to minimize the risk of application errors and from the user's point of view to reduce mental stress. The second step itself may additionally contribute to the mental stress of the person performing the procedure.

Only common methods that can be used by farmers are addressed in the review. Additionally, new developed methods, not yet covered by the Regulation, are described.

Official inspectors and experts from member states are invited to contact EURCAW-Pigs with any suggestions, comments or questions to further improve this review.

Introphoto (©WUR): Piglets_variation in weight