The effect of electrical head-only stun duration on electroencephalographic-measured seizure and brain amino acid neurotransmitter release

C. J. Cook, C. E. Devine, K. V. Gilbert, D. D. Smith, S. A. Maasland

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Effective electrical head-only stunning produces a seizure-like state followed by a period of analgesia seen in animals allowed to recover. Passing of a 1·0 A current (50 Hz, 500 V) for less than 0·2 s, through the head of a sheep does not produce a seizure-like state as evidenced by recorded electroencephalogram. Corresponding to this lack of seizure-like state, the release of the neurotransmitters glutamate and aspartate, in the brain, occurs to levels associated with arousal rather than seizure. At a duration of 0·2 s, the same stun parameters as above produce a seizure-like state and the release of glutamate and aspartate rises dramatically. The length of the seizure-like state, and the levels of release of glutamate, aspartate and a third neurotransmitter gamma amino-4-butyric acid (GABA), increased with stun duration until 4·0 s duration, where a peak in these parameters was seen. Stun durations of 2·0, 4·0, 8·0 and 12·0 s all produce similar effects. At a duration of 20 s, however, the length of the seizure-like state and the release of neurotransmitters is less than at shorter stun durations. For welfare purposes a head-only electrical stun, of 1·0 A, at a duration as low as 0·2 s produces unconsciousness and analgesia to subsequent slaughter procedures. However, maximum welfare benefits appear attainable at durations between 2·0 and 20·0 s.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-147
Number of pages11
JournalMeat Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes


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