Two commercial pig abattoirs (A and B) equipped with a head-only and head-to-chest electrical stunning systems, and two (C and D) equipped with compact carbon dioxide (CO2) stunning systems, were visited during 3 days to evaluate the effects of the stunning system on meat quality and haemorrhages. Meat quality was evaluated by measuring muscle electrical conductivity (PQM) and colour (Minolta Chromameter) at 2 and 7 h post mortem (abattoirs A and C, and B and D, respectively). PQM and colour were measured in 2486 and 2321 loins respectively. Also ultimate pH (pHu) was measured in 2395 loins at 24 h post mortem. Haemorrhages were evaluated by recording the incidence of petechiae, ecchymosis and haematomas, bone fractures were also recorded. A total of 1980 shoulders, 3943 loins, and 5438 hams were inspected. In the abattoirs equipped with the electrical stunning systems, a higher (P<0.05) incidence of potentially PSE meat (PQM>6) was found compared with the abattoirs equipped with CO2 stunning. Likewise, the loins from electrically stunned pigs were paler than those from CO2 stunned pigs (P<0.05). Electrical stunning increased the incidence of petechiae in the loin and the ham (P<0.05). No shoulder, loin or ham with bone fractures was found in the abattoirs studied. Therefore, CO2 stunning reduces the incidence of PSE meat and of petechiae on muscle fascia of loins and hams, compared with electrical stunning. However, petechiae are not of great importance because they can be removed from the affected commercial cuts. © 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.