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Animals 2017, 7(12), 100;

Efficacy of Blunt Force Trauma, a Novel Mechanical Cervical Dislocation Device, and a Non-Penetrating Captive Bolt Device for On-Farm Euthanasia of Pre-Weaned Kits, Growers, and Adult Commercial Meat Rabbits

Department of Pathobiology, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 23 October 2017 / Revised: 28 November 2017 / Accepted: 12 December 2017 / Published: 15 December 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Humane Killing and Euthanasia of Animals on Farms)
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Simple Summary

Developing effective and humane on-farm euthanasia methods is essential for all livestock industries to ensure that animals do not suffer and are killed humanely. Approved methods are lacking for commercial meat rabbits, potentially leading to poor welfare. We assessed several methods of on-farm killing of cull rabbits of different ages to determine which methods were most effective and humane. These included blunt force trauma (the most commonly used method on rabbit farms), a novel mechanical cervical dislocation device, and a non-penetrating captive bolt device. We evaluated method effectiveness by examining animal reflexes and behaviours after applying the method as well as by examining radiographs of rabbit heads for signs of skull damage, and by assessing the degree of trauma to the brain through dissection and microscopy, because more trauma is generally correlated with enhanced method effectiveness and irreversibility. We found that blunt force trauma resulted in an unacceptably high failure rate, particularly in mature rabbits, whereas the mechanical cervical dislocation and non-penetrating captive bolt devices were both highly effective for killing rabbits humanely and irreversibly. The non-penetrating captive bolt device was the most effective with a 100% success rate and could be used on all rabbits weighing more than 150 g.


The commercial meat rabbit industry is without validated on-farm euthanasia methods, potentially resulting in inadequate euthanasia protocols. We evaluated blunt force trauma (BFT), a mechanical cervical dislocation device (MCD), and a non-penetrating captive bolt device (NPCB) for euthanasia of pre-weaned kits, growers, and adult rabbits. Trials were conducted on three commercial meat rabbit farms using 170 cull rabbits. Insensibility was assessed by evaluating absence of brainstem and spinal reflexes, rhythmic breathing, and vocalizations. Survey radiographs on a subsample of rabbits (n = 12) confirmed tissue damage prior to gross dissection and microscopic evaluation. All 63 rabbits euthanized by the NPCB device were rendered immediately and irreversibly insensible. The MCD device was effective in 46 of 49 (94%) rabbits. Method failure was highest for BFT with euthanasia failures in 13 of 58 (22%) rabbits. Microscopically, brain sections from rabbits killed with the NPCB device had significantly more damage than those from rabbits killed with BFT (p = 0.001). We conclude that BFT is neither consistently humane nor effective as a euthanasia method. MCD is an accurate and reliable euthanasia method generally causing clean dislocation and immediate and irreversible insensibility, and the NPCB device was 100% effective and reliable in rabbits >150 g. View Full-Text
Keywords: cull; rabbit; animal welfare; physical methods; on-farm euthanasia cull; rabbit; animal welfare; physical methods; on-farm euthanasia

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Walsh, J.L.; Percival, A.; Turner, P.V. Efficacy of Blunt Force Trauma, a Novel Mechanical Cervical Dislocation Device, and a Non-Penetrating Captive Bolt Device for On-Farm Euthanasia of Pre-Weaned Kits, Growers, and Adult Commercial Meat Rabbits. Animals 2017, 7, 100.

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