Low Atmospheric Pressure Stunning™ (LAPS®) is a novel system for humane killing of poultry. Birds arrive at the processing facility in transport modules which are designed to minimise the stress and discomfort associated with being handled. These modules are placed in a LAPS chamber which is subject to a slow controlled reduction in atmospheric pressure reducing the available oxygen and thus inducing unconsciousness. After unconsciousness, the process further lowers the air pressure resulting in death.
1. What is LAPS?
2. How does LAPS work?
Conscious birds are exposed to slow, gradual decompression. This creates a steady reduction in available oxygen to levels which reduce brain function resulting in loss of consciousness. The low blood oxygen level results in the slowing of the heart rate and further reduction of brain functions, preventing recovery.
3. What happens to the birds during the LAPS cycle?
Natural variations among birds mean that the timings that follow are averages, but the LAPS process is designed to cope with this variation. The LAPS cycle lasts 280 seconds for chickens. During the first 40 seconds, there are few observable behavioural responses (e.g. head shaking in some birds) followed by a loss of balance and finally loss of posture and thus consciousness between 50-70 seconds. A few seconds after loss of posture and loss of consciousness the birds begin reflexive wing flapping. This is a normal automatic response in poultry, and is not indicative of pain, suffering or stress. Around 140 seconds later, virtually all birds are motionless (in a non-recovery state).
4. Is LAPS humane?
Yes. Humane slaughter of birds is required in most countries. Some countries specify higher welfare standards at slaughter than others, for example the European Union’s standards versus the United States standards. This means the elimination of avoidable pain, distress, and suffering during killing and related processes. Through a number of peer reviewed studies, an international scientific team have provided robust evidence that the LAPS process is humane (slaughter without avoidable fear, anxiety, pain, suffering, and distress).
5. How do you know LAPS doesn't cause distress, pain, or suffering?
Some of the most robust scientific work completed on animals at the time of killing has been completed on LAPS for chickens. These studies measured behavior, heart, and brain activity to look for signs of distress, pain, or suffering. Collectively, these studies show that LAPS has the potential to improve poultry welfare by inducing unconsciousness gradually and without distress, pain, or suffering and also by avoiding live shackling and by ensuring every bird is stunned.
6. Where can LAPS be used officially?
LAPS is officially legal to use in the USA and Canada for poultry and the EU for broilers weighing less than 4kgs and for depopulation of chickens. The USDA gave LAPS “No Objection” in 2010, while the Canadian equivalent, CFIA, gave LAPS “No Objection” in 2013. Governmental bodies such as the USDA and CFIA typically do not approve equipment, but only give an Objection to their use or No Objection to their use. The American Humane Association gave LAPS a Seal of Approval for Humane Equipment in 2011 while the American Veterinary Medical Association noted that LAPS was humane in 2013 and produced detailed guidance for the use of LAPS for slaughter of all poultry in 2016. Council Regulation (EC) No. 1099/2009 was amended on 16 May 2018 to include LAPS. The legality of the use of LAPS in other countries outside of the USA, Canada, and EU can be determined by speaking to the competent authorities in the specific country.
7. When can LAPS be used in the European Union?
It is now legal to use LAPS in the EU on broilers weighing less than 4kgs and for depopulation of chickens. This went into law on 16 May 2018. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv:OJ.L_.2018.122.01.0011.01.ENG&toc=OJ:L:2018:122:TOC
8. What is EFSA?
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is an independent European agency given responsibility for scientific assessment and advice to the European Commission on risks associated with the food chain. In order for LAPS to be listed as an approved method in Annex I of Council Regulation (EC) No. 1099/2009, it first must receive a positive opinion from EFSA. This step has been completed. LAPS is thus far the only stunning system to have received a positive opinion following the revised EFSA Guidance published in 2013.
9. What other systems are approved for stunning of poultry by the EU?
The welfare standards of the EU are considered to be the gold standard across the world. There are several methods listed in Annex I of Council Regulation (EC) No. 1099/2009 for the stunning of poultry, but there are only two types of systems that are in use commercially. These systems were grandfathered in the law because of existing use in the EU prior to Regulation (EC) No. 1099/2009 and they did not undergo scrutiny by EFSA based on the new guidance. These systems are electrical waterbath stunning and controlled atmosphere stunning (CAS) with carbon dioxide.
10. How do other stunning systems compare to LAPS, according to EFSA?
In a very detailed review of LAPS, EFSA found that that the scientific data on LAPS exceeded that available for other stunning systems in poultry (e.g. electrical waterbath and controlled atmospheric (gas) stunning). Due to this lack of comparable data, EFSA could not make direct comparisons of LAPS to these systems and recommended that dedicated scientific studies be completed so that a proper assessment could be performed. Instead of the direct comparison approach, EFSA performed a welfare hazard analysis of each system using an expert panel. The results of this analysis (with lower scores meaning lower welfare risk): LAPS scored 3.5, CAS with carbon dioxide scored 7, and Electrical Waterbath Stunning scored 10. Thus, LAPS has lower welfare hazard scores than both of the currently allowed systems.