Today we visited Van Rooi pig slaughterhouse in Helmond. After a tour of the slaughterhouse we came together to brainstorm on how we could reduce stress during loading, unloading and whilst moving the pigs through the raceways.
No more mixing
Van Rooi is currently experimenting keeping the pigs in small social groups. Previously, there would be about 30 pigs in one waiting pen. These pens will now be divided in two by using simple plastic fences. This technique has already been implemented in a large section of the waiting area . In these smaller pens there are now 13 pigs (2 pigs less than allowed, which means the pigs now have a little more space). This number equals the number of pigs in one truck compartment. The goal is to put the pigs from one truck compartment into one stall. This prevents pigs from different social groups being mixed together, which often leads to hierarchy fights.
The practice of keeping pigs in the same social groups, from farm to slaughter, has been recommended by Eyes on Animals for many years now to both transporters and slaughterhouses. Although several slaughterhouses, on our advice, started working with smaller groups of pigs, mixing them remained standard practice. Recently the organization Wakker Dier requested enforcement action by the NVWA (Dutch Food Safety Authority) as mixing is in violation with the EU Council Regulation. We are happy that Van Rooi has already taken great steps towards putting this into practice. Next week they will start working on unloading pigs from one truck compartment at a time and moving them into one pen.
Reduction of stress whilst moving the pigs along the raceways
Last year Van Rooi followed our advice to reduce stress in the raceway by removing two of the automatic pusher gates. At our recommendation they will now also lower the group size from 8 to either 6 or 7. This makes it easier for the pigs to turn around and pass each other. This reduces the chance of jamming and pigs jumping on top of eachother. As a result pigs will have less fear and walk more smoothly.
We further advised Van Rooi to restrict the use of the rattling cans. These cans are used to move the pigs throughout the slaughterhouse (from unloading to stunner). The noise these cans create causes significant stress in the pigs and we suggested they experiment with silent herding tools such as flags or plastic bags. We also recommended to shield or whitewash the light domes to reflect the sunlight and block hot sun rays from coming in. The ventilation in the stall has been improved, but it’s not yet clear if this is sufficient to reduce heat stress. To round off our recommendations we suggested the noise level in the waiting stall could be reduced by using sound insulation against the ceiling.
Van Rooi also want to reduce stress whilst loading the pigs, so that electric prods and other pain- and stressful herding tools become a thing of the past. We have already exchanged a few ideas and will further expand on these in our report for Van Rooi.
Our thanks to Van Rooi for taking steps to reduce stress and for continuing to do so.