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The purpose of electrocution is to kill the animal by stopping the heart from pumping blood around the body (referred to as cardiac arrest). If this happens, the brain will be starved of oxygen and will rapidly die. When an appropriate electric current is passed through the heart it goes into a state known as ventricular fibrillation. This means that the heart muscles fibres contract in a rapid, uncoordinated manner instead of in a regular, coordinated way; blood circulation stops and, if this state persists, death will soon occur.

electrocutionWhen an animal is electrocuted it becomes rigid with slight body tremors and then gradually relaxes. There should be no further movement. Electrocution is painful, so it is essential that animals are stunned before it is carried out. In practice, this is achieved by using equipment that delivers current initially through the brain, and then through the brain and heart simultaneously.

It cannot be guaranteed that every animal will go into cardiac arrest: if an animal exhibits the signs of a head-only stun, such as clonic paddling movements of the legs, then it should be bled immediately to prevent recovery. Equally, it may be possible for the animal to go into a cardiac arrest without being effectively stunned. The symptoms of this are very difficult to observe as the animal may be paralysed and will die very quickly, but the presence of eye movement or corneal reflex (reaction to touching the surface of the eye) are reasonable indicators. Should this situation occur, the animal must be re-stunned immediately, the equipment checked before further use, and the placement of the electrodes carefully monitored.


Next: Stun Duration


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