Today we visited the slaughterhouse Thönes Natur in Wachtendonk (DL) to witness a number of improvements that the company has made following our previous visit. We were accompanied by Marien Gerritzen (Wageningen University and Research) and Wouter Veerkamp (Meyn). Marien is an expert on animal welfare during transport and in slaughterhouses. Wouter Veerkamp works for Meyn, a company that specializes in developing systems for poultry slaughterhouses including stunners.
At Thönes Natur poultry are stunned by an electrical waterbath. The birds (chickens and turkeys) are first hung by shackles after which they are passed through an electrified water bath. This live shackling causes a great deal of stress and pain. In order to reduce the suffering, on our advice, Thönes introduced a breast supporter underneath the shackle line. The breast supporter will reduce the stress and pain caused by the shackling as it disperses the weight of the birds more evenly because they can to some extent lean their breast onto a strip positioned under the shackle line. Also, on our advice, Thönes Natur Bolt has attached a steeply inclined ramp onto the entrance of the waterbath. This ramp ensures that the bird’s head comes into contact with the waterbath before the wings, to prevent painful electric shocks as much as possible. Marien Gerritzen has verified that the birds were stunned properly observing muscle tension in the neck, the presence of breathing and the reaction of the eyes. On the basis of these parameters the stunning was found to be adequate. In agreement with Marien Gerritzen and Wouter Veerkamp we advised Thönes Natur to make the breast supporter longer, so – as soon the birds are shackled until the moment they enter the waterbath – their weight is dispersed. We also recommended they use a breast supporter that is made of a non-conductive material, so there is no risk of electricity being passed onto the birds. Furthermore we have advised them to darken the stunning room so that the birds are calmer, look at the possibility of building a conveyor belt instead of a breast supporter so the birds are given even more support and to make the shackle line higher so the birds do not come into contact with the crates stacked underneath the shackle line.
Nonslip floor for pig chute
Thönes Natur uses a corral shaped raceway to move the pigs towards the electrical stunner. This design takes into account the natural (flight) behavior of pigs to reduce stress as much as possible. During our previous visit we were impressed by the raceway because the pigs moved in a much calmer manner – compared to slaughterhouses which often use a straight single file raceway. Following our previous visit, Thönes Natur has made a section of the chute floor nonslip, so there is less chance of the pigs slipping. They have also sealed a gap that was just in front of the stunner, so there is less chance of the pigs getting their trotters caught. Marien Gerritzen had not seen such a raceway before and was very impressed.
We are very pleased with the improvements Thönes Natur has made so far. There are still a some improvements that can be made, so the suffering of the animals can be further reduced. We will stay in contact with Thönes Natur to put these improvements into practice. We want to thank Thönes Natur for their commitment and transparency. We also want to thank Marien Gerritzen and Wouter Veerkamp for sharing their expertise and the educational day.