Today, together with Safian Abdul Rahman (director of the Ghanaian organisation WACPAW), we visited slaughterhouse Feenstra in Drachten (NL). Feenstra is a small slaughterhouse where pigs are calmly handled and manually stunned in their group. Because of this, stress is kept to a minimum. We wanted to show this to Safian so he could take this knowledge back to Ghana. In Ghanaian slaughterhouses, pigs are often beaten to death with a metal rod. Stunning with electricity could be a big welfare gain.
Safian was very impressed by the calmness in the slaughterhouse and amongst the pigs – a world of difference compared to the slaughterhouses in Ghana. We discussed the challenges of electric stunning in Ghana; for example, a stable power supply is not guaranteed, and the correct settings (amperage, frequency and voltage) and position of the prongs (which needs to be placed between the ears and the eyes) are crucial. When used incorrectly, the animals might suffer very badly. This is one of the reasons why we mainly work with captive bolt guns, instead of electricity, in Ghana.
We also experimented with food in the stunning pen. On our advice, Feenstra installed hay racks in the stunning pen. Hay causes a positive distraction so the employee can place the stunning prongs with more accuracy. Today we brought other types of food with us, e.g. apples, carrots and lettuce, to see whether this would work even better. However, we noticed that the pigs found them a bit less interesting, probably because they don’t know these foods. Curiosity increased when the food was placed on the floor. Feenstra is also experimenting with rubber mats in the lairage, so the pigs are warmer and more comfortable when laying down. The mats also provide a positive distraction (they can bite and pull them).
At Feenstra, a lot of attention is paid to animal welfare. Multiple distraction materials are placed in the barn and they have a very low speed of slaughter (20-25 per hour); the pigs don’t have to be rushed and can be moved and stunned in a calm environment. We gave a few tips to optimize the stunning process further.
We would like to thank Feenstra for their time and transparency and their efforts regarding animal welfare. They gave time to talk to us about slaughterhouses in Ghana and are always open to our advice.