Today we made an unannounced visit to a pig slaughterhouse owned by VION in Apeldoorn in connection with the extreme hot weather. VION immediately made time to show us around. We checked the condition of the pigs (inside the trucks, under the canopy and whilst unloading) and measured the temperatures. The canopy was constructed in 2021, following our advice. Prior to that all trucks stood in the sun whilst waiting to be unloaded. Under the canopy it is a few degrees cooler then outside it. However, the canopy is not big enough, as it only accommodates two trucks. The trucks were also parked too close together, preventing natural air flow. The pigs in the trucks showed a lot of heat stress. On top of that, one or two trucks were outside the canopy. Although they were parked next to a wall (some shade) the sun was beating directly on the roof.
We noted the waiting time of two trucks (from arrival to unloading). Truck 1 stood still for 80 minutes under the canopy. Truck two, with the sun beating fully on its roof, stood still for no less than 120 minutes. With temperatures of 35-38 degrees in direct sun, and humidity at 30%, we find these long waiting times completely unacceptable.
There was also an inadequate number of fans under the canopy. Our advice is to place more fans at all loading levels so that the first and second loading floors also receive good ventilation. VION stated they will get to work on remedying this. They are also going to look at how to reduce the waiting time and create additional shaded areas. Until these recommendations have been implemented, we feel VION should instruct the drivers to keep the trucks moving. This is a challenge however, as drivers are reluctant to do this because of fuel costs.
Unloading in general was done well. VION in Apeldoorn only allows plastic bags to be used as a herding tool whilst unloading. We think this is very positive. Bags only make a little noise and can’t be used to hit animals with. Also, at the end of this month, a roof will be built so that trucks unloading are positioned in the shade and pigs are not blinded by the sun shining into the trucks.
We observed the unloading of two trucks. In one truck (in which we witnessed pigs suffering severe heat stress), one pig had died. The animal had purple spots on its neck, a sign that it had likely suffocated from the heat. Two other pigs had collapsed and were unable to walk (organ failure); their suffering was ended on the spot using an electrical stunner and then bled out.
The last truck was unloaded at 13:10. Many slaughterhouses ceased work earlier today, because the afternoon temperature in the shade was expected to be above 35 degrees. This is when transport is prohibited. But our observations (a lot of heat stress, exhausted pigs and one dead pig) show that transport should be forbidden way before that. We suggest a maximum of 27 degrees because this equates to approximately 32 degrees in direct sun.
We appreciate the transparent approach of VION Apeldoorn; the fact that they allowed us access to all areas on short notice is very commendable. It is also very positive that they will action our recommendations. We do however feel that measures to reduce heat stress should have been taken way earlier.