Controlled Atmosphere Killing campaign

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Brian Tomasik
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Controlled Atmosphere Killing campaign

Post by Brian Tomasik » Sun Aug 14, 2011 7:59 pm

I generally don't like PETA's style, and their McCruelty campaign is no exception. However, the issue on which they're advocating is numerically very important; Controlled Atmosphere Killing could reduce the painfulness of death for billions of chickens per year.

So I filled out the letter in the "Take Action" section of the McCruelty website. I rewrote the subject and text in order to make it clear I had personalized the message:
Please require CAK chicken from your suppliers

I encourage you to require your suppliers in the U.S. and Canada to switch to CAK for slaughter of poultry. Suppliers Bell & Evans in Pennsylvania and Mary's Chickens in California are already adopting CAK. McDonalds could be seen as a leader for animal welfare by making this change.
If anyone else is interest, feel free to send a message of your own.

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Gedusa
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Re: Controlled Atmosphere Killing campaign

Post by Gedusa » Sun Aug 14, 2011 8:37 pm

I'd only just heard about CAK on facebook (thanks LadyMorgana!). It seems like a decent idea, so I signed the letter (didn't alter it). This seems like an excellent example of low-hanging fruit that we could go after. According to PETA: "CAK is currently used to kill 75 percent of turkeys and 25 percent of chickens in the U.K. and 10 percent of all birds in the European Union". How difficult would it be to force through some sort of EU resolution to make CAK mandatory? Or at least campaign for more places in Europe to take this up? I mean, someone managed to get the battery cage resolution through and I expect that would've been more harmful to farmers interests than CAK.

Though maybe the U.S. is easier to do? I think this is unlikely, as I recall that attitudes to animal rights are slightly worse in the U.S. than in Europe.
Last edited by Gedusa on Sun Aug 14, 2011 9:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Controlled Atmosphere Killing campaign

Post by Brian Tomasik » Sun Aug 14, 2011 9:20 pm

Thanks, Gedusa!
Gedusa wrote:"CAK is currently used to kill 75 percent of turkeys and 25 percent of chickens in the U.K. and 10 percent of all birds in the European Union".
That's a big enough percentage to show that the idea isn't pie-in-the-sky, yet a small enough percentage that there would be significant returns if we were to increase it.

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Re: Controlled Atmosphere Killing campaign

Post by ExtendedCircle » Sun Aug 14, 2011 10:19 pm

In the linked description, it said they'd possibly use carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide causes severe distress to vertebrates because of an evolved aversion to it. I would think they'd make sure to use argon or something like it, but now I'm skeptical.

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Re: Controlled Atmosphere Killing campaign

Post by Jesper Östman » Sun Aug 14, 2011 11:02 pm

Very interesting. Could this be the most important of all non-futuristic causes?

Since 75% of all farm animals are chickens or turkeys (http://www.utilitarian-essays.com/numbe ... imals.html), if we make the "optimistic" assumption that 2/3 of the suffering of the chickens is caused by the slaughter then this relatively simple action could eliminate half (!) of all farm-animal suffering.

What would a reasonable assumption be about what portion of the chicken-suffering is caused by the methods of slaughter?

Another interesting point is that this should appeal to many different types of consequentialists.

This is very good (compared to turning people veg*n) for positive utilitarians who worry about the logic of the larder (although perhaps it is relatively uncontroversial that the majority of chickens don't have a life worth living).

For negative utilitarians (and other practically similar views) this is obviously very good, since it could reduce huge amoutns of suffering cost-effectively.

Furthermore, it should appeal to people with person-affecting views, who unlike many positive utilitarians don't care about potential future generations.
Last edited by Jesper Östman on Sun Aug 14, 2011 11:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Controlled Atmosphere Killing campaign

Post by Brian Tomasik » Sun Aug 14, 2011 11:27 pm

Good question, ExtendedCircle. Are you referring to what the Wikipedia entry said? I didn't see mention of carbon dioxide on PETA's site. Perhaps the Wikipedia entry is more general, referring to all types of killing, both humane (nitrogen, argon) and inhumane (carbon dioxide)?
Jesper Östman wrote:if we make the "optimistic" assumption that 2/3 of the suffering of the chickens is caused by the slaughter then this relatively simple action could eliminate half (!) of all farm-animal suffering.

What would a reasonable assumption be about what portion of the chicken-suffering is caused by the methods of slaughter?
I'm not expert, but intuitively I would put it between 1/4 and 3/4 of the total suffering.
Jesper Östman wrote:Another interesting point is that this should appeal also to positive utilitarians who worry about the logic of the larder
Yes, and also to negative utilitarians worried whether vegetarianism will increase wild-animal suffering. Like humane insecticides, it's a completely "safe" cause in the sense that all the other messy variables are held constant. (Of course, that doesn't mean it's necessarily the most cost-effective, because those messy variables could have positive expected value.)

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Re: Controlled Atmosphere Killing campaign

Post by Brian Tomasik » Sun Aug 14, 2011 11:34 pm

I hasten to add that I wouldn't recommend donating to PETA. :)

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Re: Controlled Atmosphere Killing campaign

Post by Jesper Östman » Sun Aug 14, 2011 11:40 pm

Good point about the wild-animal suffering.

It needn't be most cost-effective, since it's safe. But it seems prima facie possibly extremely cost-effective on independent grounds compared to all other interventions which don't involve future generations (except perhaps humane insecticides, but I tend to think that's politically impossible).

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Re: Controlled Atmosphere Killing campaign

Post by Jesper Östman » Sun Aug 14, 2011 11:42 pm

Yeah. Though it could be something to work on for Charity International's Animal Happiness section.

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Re: Controlled Atmosphere Killing campaign

Post by Brian Tomasik » Sun Aug 14, 2011 11:56 pm

Jesper Östman wrote:Yeah. Though it could be something to work on for Charity International's Animal Happiness section.
Awesome. Feel free to keep us on Felicifia informed about Charity International's project ideas!

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Re: Controlled Atmosphere Killing campaign

Post by spindoctor » Mon Aug 15, 2011 1:03 am

Thanks Alan, I sent a message. A fantastic "safe" cause in what sometimes seems like an endless ocean of doubt.

Any idea how to make more of an impact on this issue than just PETA's email campaign?

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Re: Controlled Atmosphere Killing campaign

Post by Brian Tomasik » Mon Aug 15, 2011 1:13 am

spindoctor wrote:Any idea how to make more of an impact on this issue than just PETA's email campaign?
I'm not sure. Probably the best first step is to write to the organizers of the campaign, as well as activists at other animal organizations. (If you know anyone working in the industry, that would be a bonus!) Someone like Matt Prescott (see here and here) might be a good contact.

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Re: Controlled Atmosphere Killing campaign

Post by DanielLC » Mon Aug 15, 2011 3:53 am

Since 75% of all farm animals are chickens or turkeys (http://www.utilitarian-essays.com/numbe ... imals.html), if we make the "optimistic" assumption that 2/3 of the suffering of the chickens is caused by the slaughter then this relatively simple action could eliminate half (!) of all farm-animal suffering.
I would have expected that the vast majority of the suffering is before they're butchered, given how much longer it lasts. I wonder if I've been underestimating the pain of death, or overestimating the pain of life.
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Re: Controlled Atmosphere Killing campaign

Post by Gedusa » Mon Aug 15, 2011 9:27 am

Random point: How distinct is this from controlled atmosphere stunning? KFC (biased, yes) says that: “Based on our scientific experts and existing evidence, we are not aware of any science-based conclusive evidence that the distress of chickens, turkeys or other species experience in existing electric stunning methods is greater or less than that with gas anesthesia induction. Any claim that CAS is more humane is simply not founded on current science and should not be forced on the industry at this time.”

If the process of CAS is similar enough to CAK that it basically makes no difference, is CAK more humane than conventional methods? KFC could be lying of course...
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Re: Controlled Atmosphere Killing campaign

Post by RyanCarey » Mon Aug 15, 2011 10:09 am

It's clear that inert gases kill painlessly, sometiems even inducing euphoria. I can't speak to the painlessness of stunning.

You can see here that stunning can go wrong in numerous ways, almost all of which are painful
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Re: Controlled Atmosphere Killing campaign

Post by LadyMorgana » Mon Aug 15, 2011 11:40 am

thanks LadyMorgana!
Lol, I got it from Alan Dawrst.
Though it could be something to work on for Charity International's Animal Happiness section.
I was thinking the same.
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Re: Controlled Atmosphere Killing campaign

Post by Gedusa » Mon Aug 15, 2011 8:40 pm

Though it could be something to work on for Charity International's Animal Happiness section.
I've heard little about them. Do they have a decent track record of achievement? And are there any other charities working in this area (apart from PETA and them)? I'm a little surprised that a cursory google didn't reveal anything, it just seems like an obvious intervention.

@ Ryan. Yeah I'm willing to buy that, I'd heard the euphoria thing too. I guess either the processes are pretty different or KFC is lying through their teeth. Either is pretty plausible.
I would have expected that the vast majority of the suffering is before they're butchered, given how much longer it lasts. I wonder if I've been underestimating the pain of death, or overestimating the pain of life.
I would have expected this too. I would put the amount of suffering prevented for the average chicken by a transition to this process to be something like 5 days worth of suffering. You implicitly bring up a good point. Why are our estimates for total amount of suffering preventable with this intervention (1/2, 1/4, 3/4, 3 days) varying so much?
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Re: Controlled Atmosphere Killing campaign

Post by Pat » Wed Aug 17, 2011 6:05 am

Gary Francione uses CAS as an example of animal-welfare organizations' getting the animal-agriculture industry to agree to reforms that it would have implemented anyway. Here's one of the industry sources that he quotes:
The installation of gas stunning markedly reduced downgrades due to hemorrhages and bone fractures and improved fillet color and texture compared to previous stunning with an AC water-bath unit. As in EU plants, MBA Poultry can justify gas stunning based on the contribution from incremental revenue, which more than offsets the additional capital and operating costs incurred.
—“Future of Gas Stunning,” Watt Poultry USA, April 2005
I'm not sure how much weight we should give his argument. He doesn't distinguish between CAS and CAK, and he does come across as an ideologue. Even if he's right, PETA's campaign might raise awareness of the suffering of factory-farmed animals, and by extension, concern for animals in general. ("There's no such thing as bad publicity.")
Gedusa wrote:Random point: How distinct is this from controlled atmosphere stunning?
Here's an explanation:
Before the chickens are removed from their transport crates, the entire crate is placed into a machine where the oxygen is replaced by a gas such as carbon dioxide, which causes the birds to lose consciousness. The stunned chickens are then removed from the crates, hung upside down on shackles, and then slaughtered by having their throats slit.…Controlled atmosphere stunning differs from controlled atmosphere killing, a popular slaughter method in the UK, in that the birds are still alive when they are removed from the transport cages.
Both seem to be better than other methods.
Gedusa wrote:KFC (biased, yes) says that: “Based on our scientific experts and existing evidence, we are not aware of any science-based conclusive evidence that the distress of chickens, turkeys or other species experience in existing electric stunning methods is greater or less than that with gas anesthesia induction. Any claim that CAS is more humane is simply not founded on current science and should not be forced on the industry at this time.”
Interestingly, KFC Canada has agreed to buy only chickens that have been CAS'd.

I also signed the e-mail.

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Re: Controlled Atmosphere Killing campaign

Post by rehoot » Thu Aug 18, 2011 5:24 am

I saw a video of a guy demonstrating that people do not sense a lack of oxygen. He replaced his air supply with an oxygen-deficient gas (with extra nitrogen?) and passed out with no discomfort. I think they said that people can sense an increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide, which causes them to gasp for air. Studies like this help to estimate what animals might feel in similar situations.

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Re: Controlled Atmosphere Killing campaign

Post by Jesper Östman » Sat Sep 24, 2011 1:49 am

This article discusses CO2 vs argon and other gases and the effects on the birds' welfare: http://ps.fass.org/cgi/reprint/77/12/1815.pdf

Gedusa:
No track record of achievement, since it hasn't been launched yet.

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