Today Eyes on Animals visited pig slaughterhouse Westfort to observe the measures they have taken to protect the delivered pigs from extreme heat. Temperatures reached 33-35 °C today with a humidity of almost 50%. We documented the arrival of 10 pig trucks.
A couple of years ago Westfort, partly due to the advice from Eyes on Animals, built a canopy with fans and humidifiers so that pig trucks can park underneath while waiting for the pigs to be offloaded. We measured that under this roofing it is about 5 degrees cooler than when not underneath the canopy. The humidity is slightly higher (appr. 5%). Combined with the wind created by the fans, it is a lot more comfortable for the pigs under the roofing then outside it.
However, we observed that pig trucks are not able to park directly under the roof. They first stand and wait 5-20 minutes at the gate of the slaughterhouse, in the sun, to get their papers checked and await their turn to enter the canopy. Eyes on Animals has advised Westfort to enlarge the canopy so that pig trucks can wait in the shade at all times.
The waiting time under the roof was approximately 20-40 minutes and the total waiting time (in front of the gate and under the roof ) varied from 25-60 minutes. Eyes on Animals believes that this is still too long. Although we are happy with the canopy (it doesn’t get hot as quickly in the trucks, which reduces the heatstress among the pigs) we believe this should only be used in emergency situations, such as disruptions in the slaughterline. We continue to call for a maximum of 15 minutes for any pig truck to have to wait to be unloaded. Our goal is for slaughterhouses, including Westfort, to create larger lairages and more offloading ramps, so that animals can be offloaded more quickly. Inside the lairage, the temperature and umidity can much more easily be controlled, there is more space for the pigs and they are able to drink fresh water.
We also concluded today that pigs transported in trucks with grids placed along the open sides of the tucks experience more heat stress. The grids greatly reduce the air flow and serve no real purpose but to limit the view of live animals being carried inside. They can be seen as advantageous in that they also block pigs from sticking out their snouts or a leg, which can be a risk of injury should the truck have hydraulic floors, but in most cases in the Netherlands, pigs are not loaded onto hydraulic floors but via a back elevator that moves the groups onto the the various floors which are fixed already in place, and thus these grids are not needed. Eyes on Animals will focus efforts on a future ban of these types of animal trucks in the summer. We have a meeting planned in the near future with truck builder Berdex and a discussion about these types of trucks is on the agenda.