Stockperson attitudes toward pig euthanasia

Jean-Loup Rault, Tessa L Holyoake, G. Coleman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Euthanasia is a necessary act for any facility keeping live animals. Nevertheless, the crucial role and responsibility of the stockperson in deciding and conducting on-farm euthanasia has been overlooked. Stockperson characteristics and knowledge that lead to appropriate decision-making and the skills to competently perform the procedure remain to be identified. An important component of the stockperson’s characteristics that predict behavior is the stockperson’s attitudes. This preliminary study investigated the factors that influence stockperson attitudes toward the practice of on-farm euthanasia in the pork industry. A total of 120 stockpeople from 10 Australian pig farms (ranging in size from 50 to 4,754 sows and from 2 to 32 employees) completed a questionnaire based on focus group input to assess their attitudes toward euthanasia and decision processes. Factors identified included stockperson attitudes and attributes (empathy affect, empathy attribution, feeling bad about euthanizing, and negative attitudes to pigs), beliefs about the working environment (perceived time constraints and relying on others), and factors related to decision-making (comfortable with euthanasia, trouble deciding and avoid if possible, confidence, insufficient knowledge, seeking knowledge, and using sources to get advice). Numerous significant correlations were found between these variables. Furthermore, regression analyses showed confidence as the only significant predictor of being comfortable with euthanasia (12.5% of the variance; P < 0.001); insufficient knowledge and empathy attribution both as predictors of trouble deciding and avoid if possible (15.1% of the variance; P = 0.001 and P = 0.032, respectively); and empathy affect, insufficient knowledge, and perceived time constraints as predictors of feeling bad about euthanizing (23.2% of the variance; P < 0.001, P = 0.006, and P = 0.022, respectively). Stockpeople reported seeking more knowledge if they had not euthanized an animal before working with pigs (P = 0.05), and women reported greater difficulty than men in conducting euthanasia (P < 0.01). The findings indicate that euthanasia, which comprises both a decision-making process and the act itself, can adversely affect stockpeople. This preliminary study offers insights for implementation of successful practical and humane pig euthanasia protocols on farm. This will benefit stockperson well-being and animal well-being alike.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)949-957
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Attitudes
  • Empathy
  • Euthanasia
  • Pig
  • Welfare
  • Well-being

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