|Today Eyes on Animals made an appointment to meet with Berdex transport company to see the closed livestock trucks with forced-ventilation that they make. The reason for our visit is because the Quality Label DuurzaamVarkensVlees had asked Eyes on Animals for our opinion regarding the transport standards the label wanted to enforce. One of their requirements they were considering proposing would be that all pigs destined for DuurzaamVarkensVlees be transported in these new closed livestock trucks with ventilation.
We have three major concerns about the design of these trucks- 1. although they insist the temperature inside can remain under control even if it is very hot outside, we remain doubtful and are especially concerned should the electronics fail. 2. the driver cannot easily inspect the animals on board and 3. the driver cannot access the animals if needed. To just look at his animals, he must open each door where the ventilators are, using a key and then climb up a ladder to open the little ventilator-doors at the top. The doors are also so small, that one can not see much and worse, one can never access the animals as the hole is to small to climb through.
Access to the animals is not only a requirement of the European legislation (EC 1/2005) but vital to adequately ensure the safety and well-being of the animals at all times. All too often we have seen the need to access animals on board – with drivers climbing in to separate accidentally new-born animals before they get trampled, to milking a cow that just gave birth in order to get the colostrum needed by the new-born calf to survive, to humanely killing downer sheep suffering horribly on a blocked vehicle and to provide plenty of water to the animals when the water system breaks down or is not adequate to guarantee each animal has drunk. We have also seen the need to access animals in order to separate ones that fall injured or need to be treated by a veterinarian. We also know the behaviour of most drivers- they need things easy and quick or else most will not make the effort, and this system is too complicated for most drivers.
We have let Berdex and DuurzaamVarkensVlees know of our opinion and suggested to Berdex to build much larger doors where one can easily view the animals inside and access them if needed. If not, we will not support the use of these trucks.
We were however impressed with other efforts Berdex has made to improve animal-welfare during transport- notably that they are adding rubber to the side-gates of the ramp, to avoid noise being created by the banging of metal when the driver uses them. Most impressionable was the drinking system they have for unweaned calves- it is a rubber nipple that the calves can suck on. This is much better than the metal nipples normally found on trucks which unweaned calves cannot even use. We also really liked the floor of a truck that had hundreds of small holes in it where air was blown out of, to create more fresh air for the animals inside as well as the closed truck with a heating system- it was warm inside and indeed piglets would be better off in such a truck during the winter. The heater for the water system was also good, avoiding that the water system freezes and the animals not being able to access water, as we often witness when checking on livestock trucks during the winter. the dividers they build are also good- being solid and to the ground meaning animals cannot get their limbs trapped in them and risk injury.
We thank Berdex for their time to meet with us and for the discussion we held. We hope they will take our concerns seriously.