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The Rise of Heatstroke as a Method of Depopulating Pigs and Poultry: Implications for the US Veterinary Profession

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jessica MartinORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Depopulation of food-producing animals is becoming increasingly common in response to both disease outbreaks and supply chain disruptions. In 2019, the American Veterinary Medical Association released depopulation guidelines classifying certain heatstroke-based killing methods as “permitted in constrained circumstances,” when circumstances of the emergency constrain reasonable implementation of “preferred” methods. Since then, tens of millions of birds and pigs have been killed by such methods, termed ventilation shutdown (VSD) Plus Heat and VSD Plus High Temperature and Humidity. While no research using validated measures of animal welfare assessment has been performed on these methods, their pathophysiology suggests that animals are likely to experience pain, anxiety, nausea, and heat distress prior to loss of consciousness. Heatstroke-based methods may result in prolonged suffering and often do not achieve 100% mortality. Potential and available alternative depopulation methods are briefly reviewed. The veterinary profession’s ethical obligation to protect animal welfare in the context of depopulations is discussed.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Reyes-Illg G, Martin J, Mani I, Reynolds J, Kipperman B

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Animals

Year: 2023

Volume: 13

Issue: 1

Print publication date: 29/12/2022

Online publication date: 29/12/2022

Acceptance date: 26/12/2022

Date deposited: 02/01/2023

ISSN (electronic): 2076-2615

Publisher: MDPI AG


DOI: 10.3390/ani13010140


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