Eyes on Animals was invited to Van Rooi pig slaughterhouse in Helmond. They wanted our advice on animal welfare at their facilities where they could/should make improvements. Van Rooi started by explaining their areas of concern. We then visited the slaughterhouse to inspect the unloading, the lairage, the handling and moving of the pigs and the debleeding.
In our opinion, improvements were most needed in the raceway towards the CO2-stunner. Several automatic doors were used to move pigs forward. The doors slid backwards just above the pigs’ heads, which panicked them, causing them to move backwards instead of forwards. Also, some pigs got trapped under the doors, despite the employee doing his best to prevent this.
The advantage of CO2-stunning is that pigs can be moved in groups (thus reducing their stress levels), but this was negated by the automatic doors. We recommended the removal of these doors and replace them with one or two experienced employees who can move the pigs calmly.
The design of the unloading area included dead ends and differing floor surfaces (color and texture). We recommended both be removed and changed respectively and to load the pigs in smaller groups. This will reduce stress and congestion when the pigs are being moved. Finally, we advised ‘improving the temperature and humidity levels in the holding pen which were already high early in the day.
Van Rooi had already made several improvements, such as muffling the ventilation noise, keeping smaller groups in the waiting pen and during the move towards the CO2 stunner. They also provide toys for the suspect pigs (pigs which, due to abnormalities are slaughtered later in the day) and were experimenting with different tools to move pigs quietly. Furthermore Van Rooi is using gates made from synthetic material which produces less noise.
Following our inspection report, Van Rooi visited Westfort slaughterhouse where all automatic doors (except the door before the CO2 stunner) have been removed after receiving advice from EonA. Van Rooi then decided to also remove a number of their automatic doors. Furthermore, they are going to experiment with sawdust in the unloading area (to reduce the changes in flooring) and the dead ends will be removed. There will also be a meeting with all employees so everyone is familiar with the latest policy and changes.
We would like to thank Van Rooi for the various changes they have already made to improve animal welfare. The additional improvements will further decrease stress among the pigs and therefore also make work easier for the staff. As soon as the most important improvements have been implemented, Van Rooi will invite us back.