Today was very hot outside and thus a team from Eyes on Animals made an unannounced visit to Vion slaughterhouse in Boxtel to check if the slaughterhouse was well prepared to protect pigs from heat stress. The outside temperature is 27 – 28 degrees and there are no clouds. We saw that Vion employees were spraying the asphalt under the waiting pig trucks to keep the asphalt cool. There were at least 6 trucks with live pigs inside in the queue at the slaughterhouse waiting to be unloaded.
We asked to speak with the manager and to be allowed onto the Vion premise to take a closer look at things. After some time the manager greeted us and we held an open discussion about the Dutch “heat-protocol”(rules in The Netherlands that apply to animal transport when temperatures are high) and what VION is now doing, and not yet doing, to protect the pigs as much as possible from heat stress.
Once on the site we saw that there were also 3 industrial fans running to cool the pigs on the trucks. VION has therefore taken several steps to reduce some heat stress. Nevertheless, improvements are still needed because the fans are low to the ground and thus only reach the pigs on the bottom level of the truck. The top 2 floors are not reached with this set up, and the situation above is made worse by the fact that the sun burns continuously on the roof of the pig trucks. The fans they purchased are also not very strong (they do not produce a lot of wind), we have seen much more powerful ones in action at other plants. Keeping the asphalt wet under and around the livestock trucks also only benefits the pigs on the lower floor. There are also no shady parking places or overdecked areas where the livestock trucks can wait. The pigs are very warm today and considering the temperature outside, are overcrowded. Their loading density should have been decreased given the heat.
Eyes on Animals is of the opinion that taller and stronger fans should be purchased so that all pigs on board can benefit from the cooling effect. We will also continue to encourage Vion to build an overdecked area where trucks can park in the shade, to avoid the direct sun. But ultimately the really effective long-term solution is that the size of the lairage be adapted to the increasing number of pigs they slaughter. Over the years, more and more pigs are slaughtered but the lairage has remained the same size. This means that pigs cannot right away be unloaded, as should be the case. We have informed the manager of our findings and will remain in discussion with him about these suggestions. We thank the manager of VION for his time and openness.