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Poultry Culling

Volume 447: debated on Wednesday 14 June 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the agreed levels of poultry culling capability are; when these levels were agreed; what methods of poultry culling have been agreed; and what the poultry culling capacity was in each month since January 2001. (76338)

There are no formally agreed levels of poultry culling capability. However, there are a range of culling methods available to the state veterinary service. These include maceration (for day old chicks only), lethal injection, neck dislocation, percussion killers, gassing in containers, whole-house gassing and, as a last resort when no other method is practicable, ventilation shutdown.

Killing capacity has been progressively increased over the last two years through the establishment of contingency contracts with catchers and equipment suppliers. Capacity has been further increased since January 2006 through the development of a system based on the gassing of poultry in containers using a mixture of argon and carbon dioxide; the Department has commissioned 50 of these units, each capable of killing 2,000 chickens per hour. In addition, we have purchased a number of percussion killers for use on larger birds and plan to further increase our capability to gas poultry in their sheds.

However, it is not possible to state the total killing capacity per month because this figure depends on a variety of factors. These include the age and species of poultry, the housing system, the size, location, quantity and geographic spread of the affected holdings, and the availability of catchers, gas and resources.