Members of the National Turkey Federation’s Live Production Committee took a positive step by adopting new euthanasia guidelines at the group’s leadership conference in Washington, D.C. The guidelines were the result of a critical evaluation of when euthanasia is appropriate, what methods are approved and which method is best given the size of the turkey.

Dr. Ron Prestage, veterinarian, Prestage Farms, led the discussion and made some very important points regarding euthanasia of turkeys. He said that in his company’s South Carolina grow-out houses, which are used to raise heavy toms, captive-bolt systems are now utilized exclusively in the finisher houses. Using a captive-bolt system instead of blunt force applied to the skull of the turkey by more traditional means can be easier on the person euthanizing the bird, and it looks better on video, according to Prestage.

The most important considerations in choosing a method of euthanasia is that the animal feel as little pain as possible while its life is ended as swiftly and humanely as can be done practically. Having said this, I think the National Turkey Federation has taken a step in the right direction by going outside the science a little and considering how the euthanasia method would look to untrained observers. If poultry producers would consider the “optics” of industry practices each time that they have the opportunity to re-engineer a practice, then slowly, but surely, poultry producers will reach a point where having their farms or processing plants videotaped won’t be a scary thing.

This may seem like a small step to some people, but I think it is an important step. Important, because it wasn’t a debate over what producers should have to do; rather it was a statement of what producers should do. There have been times in the past when I have heard poultry producers defend their right to continue a particular practice long after it should have been given up. It is nice to see turkey producers spending time preparing to do things the right way rather than worrying about whether a camera will be around making them look bad.