Providing input for new animal welfare laws Turkey
On 19 December, a team of Eyes on Animals and Animal Welfare Foundation gave a (film)presentation to a team of 5 officials from the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture who are responsible for drafting the upcoming national legislation on the welfare of animals at the time of slaughter. This legislation will be based on the EU legislation. We showed them the suffering of animals inside the Turkish slaughterhouses we visited, the design flaws in the equipment and the very often rough or ignorant treatment. We however also showed them lots of positive examples taken from other (Halal) plants we visited. Also, we illustrated slaughterhouse design advice and behavioral tips based on the work of animal behavior biologist, Dr. Temple Grandin. We also encouraged Turkey to training for all slaughterhouse workers. Read more.
Lecture on animal welfare to 100 veterinarian students Turkey
On 20 December, Eyes on Animals gave a lecture to approximately 100 veterinarian students and professors of the Faculty for Veterinarian Medicine in Istanbul about our inspections of animal transports and slaughterhouses in Turkey. Many of these veterinarians will later start to work in the animal husbandry. Aside from showing the problems, we also showed positive examples of welfare so they could see what kind of difference they could make. We demonstrated the urgency of improving animal welfare at the Turkish border, during transports and in slaughterhouses. We left with them the book on Humane Handling Design by Dr. Temple Grandin so they could learn more. Read our full account.
Advocating improvements horse welfare at market Zuidlaren (NL)
On 12 December, Eyes on Animals and the Animal Welfare Foundation met with representatives of the five largest Dutch horse markets (Hedel, Zuidlaren, Bemmel, Barneveld and Elst). An exporter, the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) and Dutch welfare protection agency also joined in. Our most pressing concern was convincing the organization of the Zuidlaren Horse Market (the largest in Europe), to be open to our recommendations based on our inspection in October, where we witnessed many welfare problems. See our inspection post. Alarmed by the negative publicity that followed our inspection, the Zuidlaren organization is now cooperative and open to work together on improving animal welfare at the horse markets. These markets will probably continue to exist, but with everyone’s collaboration we want to at least reduce stress and suffering. In February 2014, a next meeting is planned in which we will evaluate the Protocol Welfare Horse markets. Read the full account here.
Small improvements in Turkish slaughterhouses
Twice in 2013, in June and December, a team of Eyes on Animals and Animal Welfare Foundation visited as many slaughterhouses in Turkey as we could. We were shocked at the terrible suffering –and sometimes simply avoidable!- we saw… As we cannot stop the slaughters or the trade, we are determined to do all we can and keep visiting Turkey, to keep lobbying for (small) improvements and provide any assistance and advice we can to improve the daily practices to reduce the suffering of these poor animals! There are a few small improvements to be announced.
In one slaughterhouse, the vet was immediately prepared to make two improvements to the slaughter facility so that he animals are less at risk of injuries and suffer less stress. In another, we are relieved that the employee we saw poking in the eyeballs of the animals to restrain their heads has been fired due to our complaint! Also, the management has been convinced to install better lighting above the slaughter-box, which encourages the animals to walk towards the light (and thus they will less likely be beaten). Furthermore, potholes have been filled so animals no longer stumble or fall. These are small steps… But Eyes on Animals is determined to not give up on these animals! Also, Eyes on Animals has launched an website in English and Turkish, on which we offer practical steps the Turkish industry can take to imrpove animal welfare, see Halal Slaughter Watch.
Vion Groenlo slaughterhouse improves holding pen for “fragile” pigs
In December, we finally received news from Vion pig slaughterhouse in Groenlo that they followed our suggestion to improve the circumstances in which “fragile” pigs are held. These pigs are slightly sick or injured but considered legally fit enough to be transported for slaughter. Unfortunately, according to Dutch rules they must however be slaughtered separately at the end of the day and thus spend hours waiting at the slaughterhouse. Vion Groenlo is no longer using their most inadequate (cold, noisy, bare concrete floor) holding pen and has improved the other one, which is further away from the noise. They have bought rubber mats and placed them on the floor, covered in sawdust, so the pigs now have a warmer and softer area to lay on. They also took another of our recommendations into consideration of reducing the noise levels inside their plant by installing black rubber shock absorbers on the gates. Noise, particularly loud bangs, greatly add to the stress and fright level of animals in slaughterhouses.
Devising plan for ‘humane-handling training’ for chicken-catchers
Finally, our plan to initiate ‘humane handling’ welfare-workshops for chicken-catchers has been adopted! Since 2012, Eyes on Animal has been lobbying for this training within the chicken industry, at the Commodity Board for Poultry and Eggs (PVE), and with Dutch and EU authorities. We sent them many inspection reports showing injured birds due to poor loading conditions (see a video of some of our inspections here. At last, two chicken companies have now asked us to come up with a training offer. On 2 December, we first met with SVO (a company that specializes in trainings for the whole food sector) to discuss our idea for the training. Later this week we will meet with an SVO trainer to discuss the training materials needed and who can do what. We are very happy to get the ball rolling, as trainings pave the way to more responsible handling of animals and a reduction of injuries and suffering. Should these trainings be a success, we will encourage other Member States to also follow suit and inform the EU of this progress in The Netherlands. Read the whole story.
Slaughterhouse Euro-Meat Group Belgium also starts camera surveillance
After we suggested this during our visit to the slaughterhouse Euro-Meat Group in Belgium on 23 October, the director immediately placed an order for surveillance cameras and these have been installed and are running since December! This has proven to have a positive influence on the way slaughterhouse personnel handles the animals. This director had already shown Eyes on Animals that he has taken several measures to reduce the suffering of animals before the Halal slaughter.
EonA visited the Euro-Meat slaughterhouse to collect ideas for our on-going project to improve animal welfare in Turkish slaughterhouses. This director has even negotiated with three local Imams and together they reached a compromise: the cattle is unfortunately still conscious when the throat is cut, but the Imams have agreed that this slaughterhouse can stun the animals with a captive bolt pistol immediately after the religious cut is made. This is a remarkable step as still many Imams are uncomfortable allowing any kind of stunning. Read more about our visit.
Pig slaughter plant Compaxo agrees to camera surveillance personnel
Because it is uncertain if legislation that dictates camera surveillance will ever be put in place, Eyes on Animals puts lots of effort into convincing slaughterhouses to take this step voluntarily. Studies show that surveillance encourages personnel to handle animals more quietly and that they offer injured animals help more quickly. Fortunately, since November, Compaxo slaughterhouse in the Netherlands – where about 4000 pigs are killed each year- has started monitoring their personnel’s behavior. Last year, they put other recommendations we made into practice: they installed floor heating in the pen where “fragile/unfit” pigs have to wait. Also, they have reduced noise levels with rubber door stops, fitted extra lighting at the end of the stunning chute and made the loading ramps less steep, so the pigs are less afraid to walk onwards. Several articles about this improvement were published in Dutch agricultural journals and in newspapers all over the country. We hope this encourages even more slaughterhouses to follow Compaxo’s example.
Movie: raising awareness & discussion on stunning methods pigs
Eyes on Animals visits many slaughterhouses and sees many – major and minor – differences in the installations used, as well as the handling and conditions of the animals. We believe that by drawing comparisons, exposing suffering and promoting “best practices”, at least we can decrease some of the suffering of animals in the slaughter industry. The practice of stunning pigs before slaughter using CO2 gas had never before been filmed. Out of sight, out of mind. Therefore, up till now it was impossible to truly show what the pigs go through when inhaling CO2, and compare it with other forms of stunning used on pigs. For the first time ever, EonA was able to set up cameras in the CO2 “gondolas” and film the pigs inside. We also gathered video material on electrical stunning of pigs and put together a short movie comparing the methods.
This film clearly shows the level of stress and pain the animals go through in each system. In October, we were first only allowed to show the movie on our website. In January 2014, we were allowed to release it on YouTube. The movie has started a lively discussion among authorities and scientists about the advantages and disadvantages of each stunning method. It has also raised interest in finding an alternative to both, such as gas types that create less discomfort when breathed-in.
Help with rescue of 850 hens
One of our volunteer inspectors is a member of the German initiative “Rettet das Huhn”. They find homes for spent laying hens and when a farmer is preparing to rid his barn of his spent layers, this group offers to load them for free in exchange for the hens not having to go to slaughter. In the morning of 15 September, at 4:30am, we helped this fantastic German group load 850 spent hens and transport them to various locations in Germany where their new “owners” were waiting to pick them up. All new homes were first checked to make sure the hens would have access to a clean and safe outdoor area. It took us 1.5 hours to load the birds, catching two at a time underneath the body and with the wings gently folded in. By 11:30am all the hens were with their new owners. It felt great for the Eyes on Animals team to help make a “happy end” possible for these 850 hens! Read the whole story.
Corrupt veterinarians at Bulgarian/Turkish border replaced
All of the EonA and AWF complaints about the relaxed and corrupt behavior of the veterinarian inspectors at the Bulgarian side of the border have paid off. Following our complaints, a group of European Officials also inspected the activities at the border and – like us – sent in a complaint that the veterinarian inspectors were not conducting their work thoroughly. After the recent elections almost all the veterinarians at the border towns of Haskovo and Kapitan Andreevo have been replaced. In November, we were informed that he former Head Veterinarian has been accused of corruption and could be facing 3 years in prison. Our reports are being used in the prosecution! The new veterinarian officials seem much more honest and professional. They are now even checking the GPS of all livestock trucks trying to pass the Bulgarian exit point into Turkey – should the animals still have a long way to drive in Turkey, they are being sent back to the closest control point to be unloaded, rested and fed for 24hrs first. Read more about this good news!
Minister declares in parliament: ‘No export calves to Turkey’
After receiving information that the Dutch industry was planning to start the export of young calves to Turkey, Eyes on Animals raised alarm and sent letters detailing the animal suffering during this long transport route to the Dutch Ministry, the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA), The EU Commission and the Food and Veterinary Office. We also sent out a press release that was picked up by many media. This led to questions in parliament from the Party for the Animals and her own party, the PvdA. In September, she stated that she will not support these export plans. As Eyes on Animals we feel thrilled that our many investigations at the EU border with Turkey, recording evidence of animal welfare problems, have led to these plans being cancelled! See the Minister’s declaration (in Dutch).
Supervision of animal transports back in government hands
A breakthrough in parliament! After a debate in parliament, it has been decided that the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA), will once again be fully responsible for overseeing animal transports. This is certainly partly thanks to the field work of Eyes on Animals, which was sometimes mentioned during the debate to prove that unfortunately the self-monitoring system of the industry was inadequate to watch over animal welfare. These past years, we have continuously sent our investigations and inspection reports to the authorities, which sometimes led to sanctions and questions in parliament. Read more about it (in Dutch).
Successful training of Hungarian highway police
Throughout 2013, Eyes on Animals and Animal Welfare Foundation have trained several brigades of highway police officers in Hungary. Even though they cannot pay for these trainings, we find it very important to school them, because Hungary is a much-used transit country for the EU livestock trade. For the theory course, we have made tailored training material in Hungarian which highlight EU transport regulations. We also outline the Hungarian sanctioning system and explain to them how they can contact the government authorities. During the practical part of the trainings, we go out on the road together and show them how to stop and inspect trucks and how they can relieve the suffering of animals when needed. Read an account about one of our trainings here:
Netherlands tightens control on poultry transports
In June, Eyes on Animals received an email from the Dutch authorities, thanking us for our investigations on chicken transport. They write that largely due to our reports, such as Cracks in the Crate and our inspection reports about violations seen during the trailing of poultry trucks (to Poland), the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) have tightened the control on transports of poultry, especially the longer distance ones. We proved that these transport journeys to Poland were indeed taking longer than the maximum journey time allowed. Read more.
Eyes on Animals speaks at congress Dutch government inspectors
On 19 June, Eyes on Animals spoke at the NVWA congress, where over 200 Dutch government inspectors of livestock transport, slaughterhouses and farms attended. We gave three presentations: one about the welfare of chicken during transport, one about the alarming condition some pigs are in when they arrive at Dutch pig slaughterhouses, and one about the criteria a livestock truck must fulfill before it is to be accepted for the transport of live animals. In all presentations we included suggestions for improvement, illustrated with examples of ‘good practices’. We met some very motivated and caring inspectors from the NVWA that we look forward to staying in touch with. Read more.
Chickens get a voice at EU congress on Enforcement!
Our 2012 report “Cracks in the Crates”, summarizing our investigations of poultry transports and suggesting what concrete improvements are needed to reduce the suffering, resulted in media, Dutch officials and even industry players asking to meet with us. We were asked by the EU to give a speech on our findings at the congress on Animal Welfare Enforcement in Dublin on May 29th. Two hundred people from industry and Chief Veterinary Officers from all Member States in the EU attended. The Dutch officials and industry also presented which actions they have taken since EonA has alerted them of the serious suffering chickens endure. Read more.
Brainstorm with industry about welfare-friendlier chicken transport crates
On May 14, we held a brainstorm on ways to improve the transport of chickens. Now, many chickens are seriously injured on their journey to the slaughterhouse – even leading to (slow) deaths. Joining us were four people from within chicken industry, a poultry expert from the University of Wageningen and a plastic company representative. As a result, the plastic company will have a new prototype of a chicken transport drawn up. A Dutch poultry trader, if impressed with the prototype, will buy enough crates of this new design for one truck, to test them out. To view the short film EonA made about chicken transport, click here. Read more details in this post:
Training 100 Bulgarian police officers & veterinarian inspectors
On 21 and 22 May, Eyes on Animals and Animal Welfare Foundation gave a (free) training Animal Welfare & EU legislation to a 100 Bulgarian vets and highway patrol officers. Bulgaria is a very important transit country for the livestock trade: nearly all live animal transports pass through Bulgaria to Turkey and beyond to Islamic countries. With our trainings, we want to motivate and enable the participants to independently conduct animal transport inspections in their country. On the first day, we gave a theory training, on the second day we gave a practical training.
Start with ‘Livestock Industry Update Letters’
As long as the livestock industry exists, Eyes on Animals wants to stimulate daily ‘best practices’ that reduce animal suffering. Therefore, in April, we decided to start a ‘direct mailing’ about welfare problems we see in the field and their possible solutions. This ‘Industry Update’ is sent out regularly to people within the livestock industry (truck drivers, slaughterhouse managers, market directors, livestock-traders) in Europe and to a certain extent in North America. You are welcome to read the issues here.
Our video material for campaign to ban battery hens
Eyes on Animals’ welfare inspectors mostly operate out of sight of the public’s eye. However, sometimes sister organizations use our material such as inspection reports and video’s from our field work for their (publicity) campaigns to raise awareness for animal suffering. Because chicken transport and the raising and slaughter of chickens in Europe has been problematic for years and only a few Dutch members of the poultry industry have shown willingness to improve the conditions, Eyes on Animals has made our investigation material available to the Dutch campaign organization Wakker Dier. They have used it in their provocative media campain to stop abusing battery hens. Our investigations have also been used in the popular TV consumer’s programme Radar.
Putting a halt to closed livestock-trucks in Holland
In the fall of 2012, Eyes on Animals published a detailed report raising the alarm about the increasing number of closed livestock trucks that are on the road. These closed trucks are in violation of the EU requirement that there should be adequate access to animals during transport. Inside there is forced ventilation or air conditioning, but from outside an inspector and even a truck-driver cannot check or access the animals, and should the technical equipment fail, the animals inside suffocate. In 2011, a closed-truck transporting piglets from Holland to Spain had a technical failure and 300 piglets died. After two meetings with them, on 4 April, the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) informed us that they now fully share our concerns and they are investigating how they can put a halt on these trucks being approved. We also received news from one of the ‘bodyshops’ that build livestock trucks, that they are now installing access doors on the side of their trucks, due to our complaints. See our 2012 report on the importance of access during transport.
Participation Ethical reflection Committee Export Calves
Eyes on Animals has accepted the invitation of the Ministry of Economic Affairs to serve as a member of an ‘Ethical Review Committee’ which will look at the export of ‘fattening cattle’ to Turkey. On 28 January, we passionately made a case against expanding the trade to Turkey.
Showing of movie ‘In the Name of the Trade’
In January, the short movie In the Name of the Trade is released, which raises awareness for the enormous suffering that the long-distance live animal trade from the EU to third countries creates. Compassion in World Farming has compiled this movie, using the video material that Eyes on Animals and our colleagues from Animal Welfare Foundation (Germany) collected during our field work. Together, the three organizations use the movie and bring out a press release in Europe calling the EU to stop this inhumane trading of animals. The movie was widely viewed by the public, the industry and by politicians in the Netherlands and within the EU.