The Anonymous Widower

Should We Stun Animals With Carbon Dioxide?

This post has been prompted by a text from a cardiologist. He said.

Current CO2 crisis reminds me that I think we should be using nitrogen to stun animals before slaughter, not CO2.

I heard a project on Farming Today a few months ago about CO2 stunning and thought it a great mistake as it can stimulate breathing and cause distress in some.

Have you seen anything on using nitrogen?

I haven’t but I must admit, I’ve had the thought myself and have also asked myself, if the gas in food packages is nitrogen, which would be logical to me.

I do have some thoughts.

The Best Beef I Ever Tasted

Over forty years ago, I used to buy beef from a local farmer in Suffolk.

  • It would now be considered organic.
  • All the farmer’s animals got the best care.
  • He used to slaughter the animals himself in the field after giving them a pick of grass, using a captive bolt.

It was certainly, the best beef, I’ve ever tasted. But then the animals suffered no distress.

Medical Uses Of Carbon Dioxide

This is from the Wikipedia entry for carbon dioxide.

In medicine, up to 5% carbon dioxide (130 times atmospheric concentration) is added to oxygen for stimulation of breathing after apnea and to stabilize the O2/CO2 balance in blood.

This would appear to support the cardiologist’s text.

Is Carbon Dioxide Cheaper Than Nitrogen?

I have found these prices for ten litre cylinder of both gases.

  • Carbon Dioxide – £78
  • Nitrogen – £54

On this quick comparison, there would appear to not be a large difference.

Availability Of Nitrogen

Reading the Wikipedia entry for nitrogen, it appears to me, that production of oxygen-free nitrogen is not that difficult and this may explain the price comparison with carbon dioxide.

Nitrogen And The Death Penalty In The United States

This is a section called Euthanasia in the Wikipedia entry for nitrogen.

Nitrogen gas has become the inert gas of choice for inert gas asphyxiation, and is under consideration as a replacement for lethal injection in Oklahoma.

As nitrogen is an asphyxiant gas, some jurisdictions have considered inert gas asphyxiation by inhalation of pure nitrogen as a means of capital punishment (as a substitute for lethal injection).

I have been totally against the death penalty since meeting Jimmy O’Connor in the 1970s.


It strikes me that nitrogen could be used to stun animals as a more humane alternative to carbon dioxide.

September 24, 2021 - Posted by | Food | , , ,


  1. The question of whether “humane slaughter” exists is a complex one which many philosophers have spent their lives exploring. Most of us choose to believe there is such a thing, in order to sustain our lifestyles- we’re reluctant to change. There’s plenty of videos showing animals in great distress whilst being gassed/electrically stunned in UK abattoirs. Humane slaughter may exist, but in reality the majority of factory farmed meat we eat was not slaughtered humanely- much of it wasn’t even slaughtered in the UK and may not have been stunned at all. You or I may happily pay five times the price for the “best ever beef” you describe but the reality is most consumers won’t.

    Rather than fooling ourselves saying that this gas or that gas in this quantity might make the animals feel slightly less pain, we should instead pursue the only method that leaves the animal feeling no pain, don’t kill and eat them at all. If you can’t mange that, and granted it’s a huge change in the way one lives their life, then at least cut down, wherever possible. Reduce your meat intake by half, say. If everyone did that, it would make a huge difference.

    Comment by JM 2.0 | September 24, 2021 | Reply

    • I don’t eat the meat I used to, but as a coeliac, I need to eat a balanced diet with vitamins and minerals, some of which like B12 only come from animals.

      I also believe there plant based meat alternatives like Quorn will get better. Quorn incidentally is made from CO2 that comes from one of the CF Industries fertiliser plants that were shut down because of the price of gas.

      Comment by AnonW | September 24, 2021 | Reply

      • Same here, and I agree, meat alternatives will get much better in the next few years I expect. We have already seen huge innovations in the last couple of years.

        Comment by Jm 2.0 | September 24, 2021

  2. 80% of the atmosphere is Nitrogen a rather abundant source, I.e. a no-brainer.

    Comment by Maurice Reed | September 25, 2021 | Reply

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