Today Eyes on Animals paid a follow-up visit to Grossfurtner slaughterhouse in Sankt Martin (Austria). Following a visit by Eyes on Animals in 2017, Grossfurtner completely rebuilt its slaughterhouse to bring animal welfare to a higher level and significantly reduce the levels of stress among pigs. These improvements make a world of difference to the pigs.
Switching from CO2 to electric stunning
While more and more slaughterhouses switch to CO2 stunning for business reasons, Grossfurtner has switched to electric stunning for animal welfare reasons. Using CO2 stunning, pigs experience 20 seconds of extreme fear and respiratory distress. Electrical stunning is, when carried out properly, much more humane because the animals are rendered unconscious as soon as the electrodes are put in place.
Less stress when driving up
Previously, pigs at Grossfurtner were driven to the CO2 stunner individually (in succession). The pigs had to leave the group to enter a small dark raceway, filled with optical obstructions and loud noises. This caused great anxiety among the pigs resulting in congestion of the raceeway. With the help of Eyes on Animals and advice from Temple Grandin, Grossfurtner built a completely new raceway. The pigs now remain with the group for as long as possible. Just before the stunner the pigs are separated from the group by means of a circular raceway with two entrances. These two entrances (which both take the pig to the stunner) avoid the need to use force to steer them in one direction.
Corn and additional nipple drinkers
Eyes on Animals had also advised Grossfurtner to scatter corn in the waiting pens to distract the pigs and prevent fights between the animals. Grossfurtner let us know that this works well and that they are very happy with this advice. Furthermore, Grossfurtner has now isolated the waiting pens more from the rest of the slaughterhouse. This allows the pigs in the waiting pens to relax better because there is less stress due to (sudden) noises. Finally, extra drinking nipples were added to the waiting area to prevent rivalry.
A world of difference for the pigs
The improvements make a world of difference to the pigs. Compared to 2017 it was much calmer in the slaughterhouse (less pigs were heard screaming) and no more congestions in the raceway. The handling of the pigs had improved as well, probably because the struggle to get the pigs to the stunner had decreased. A few additional suggestions were given to improve animal welfare even more, such as replacing the rattlers with mobile side walls and flags – so that the noise level (and thus the level of stress) in the slaughterhouse is further reduced. We also advised repositioning the electrodes when stunning the pigs (under or in front of the ears, instead of behind the ears).
We would like to extend our compliments to Grossfurtner for their commitment and determination to improve animal welfare at their slaughterhouse. With these improvements, they have significantly reduced the level of stress level at their facility.