WASHINGTON — Animal welfare groups petitioned the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to require that meat processing establishments install video cameras inside gondolas when stunning or killing pigs with carbon dioxide.

The groups — which include the Animal Welfare Institute, Compassion in World Farming USA, World Animal Protection, Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society Legislative Fund and Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association — propose that USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) can better evaluate the humane treatment of animals through video footage.

According to FSIS enforcement records, 32 meat plants incorporate carbon dioxide gas slaughter systems.

The petition noted that, while some plants use video cameras during operations, “very few, if any, appear to use video cameras inside the gondolas used in CO2 gas slaughter systems.”

The animal welfare groups added that other countries, such as Spain, England, Scotland and Israel, require video monitoring of carbon dioxide gas slaughter systems.

The petition came after undercover video footage was posted for the public in January, displaying a bad reaction pigs at a Smithfield Foods plant had to carbon dioxide stunning.

Animal behaviorist and long-time MEAT+POULTRY contributor Temple Grandin responded to the footage at the time.

“I have observed that some pigs have a very mild reaction to controlled atmosphere stunning (CAS) and others go berserk and attempt to escape,” she said, later adding, “When the CO2 system is being evaluated, both the stress of handling and the stress of stunning must be considered.”

Grandin refrained from commenting on the latest petition to the USDA, but she stressed that the carbon dioxide system is an issue the meat industry needs to address.

“I have written in my papers for years that we need to be looking into the CO2 chamber,” Grandin told MEAT+POULTRY. She added, “It’s something that needs to be fixed, and the proper way to monitor it is cameras.”