The Stjörnugrís slaughterhouse in the Kjalarnes district of Reykjavík is making headlines for its use of gas chambers in slaughtering pigs.
Following the release last month of shocking hidden camera footage out of the U.K. showing pigs screaming in terror and struggling to escape their enclosures while being gassed with CO2, Vísir reported June 14 that one of Iceland’s four slaughterhouses employs the same procedure. Stjörnugrís has now been named at the abattoir in question.
One Stjörnugrís employee speaking anonymously with the news site said the pigs scream and rage with terror as they are lowered into the gas chamber. They said that one employee even sings to the pigs in an effort to keep them calm.
Physical reactions of breathing in CO2 include feelings of shortness of breath and choking, as well as heart palpitations and panic.
Stjörnugrís operations director Sigurður Berntsson told Vísir the gas chamber “is the best available technology that can be used today,” and said “I haven’t noticed any screams or commotion.”
The company’s CEO, Geir Gunnar Geirsson, said it’s not possible to compare the conditions of the U.K. slaughterhouse caught on hidden camera and Stjörnugrís’ facilities. He also would not grant media access to their facilities to make comparisons for themselves.
When the welfare of its pigs was called into question in 2015 — when images surfaced of pigs being kept in inhumane and cramped conditions, causing sores — Geir similarly denied any issue in his operations, saying then that Stjörnugrís’ pigs have plenty of room to move around.
Technical drawings of Marel’s Backloader G3 RelaX CO2 chamber show cages capable of holding up to 10 pigs each are positioned on a cyclical vertical conveyor that lowers the animals into higher and higher concentrations of CO2 before raising them again to be dumped out of the cages. At this point they are meant to be unconscious, though still alive, to have their abdomens cut open to bleed out.
While this elevator system appears to be what is being used at the Pilgrim’s Pride slaughterhouse in the U.K., Marel would not comment on its customers. The company would also not comment on its customers when asked if it is the Backloader G3 RelaX being used by Stjörnugrís.
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