Eyes on Animals visited a big Dutch slaughterhouse to observe if drivers delivering the pigs took precautions to protect the pigs from the cold weather (1-2 degrees) today.
We observed several drivers that had left almost all of the side shutters of their truck open when they arrived. This of course is far too cold for the pigs, especially with the wind chill when on the road. Amongst them were trucks of G.J. Verkerk and Esseveldt. In several trucks there was also not enough bedding. Fortunately there were also drivers that had taken better care and had closed the side shutters (with a small split open for some ventilation) – to prevent pigs from being exposed to the cold wind during their journey. This concerned drivers from Gloudemans and one from Schuttert.
On an average pig barn the temperature is kept at 20 degrees Celsius. Most pigs never come outdoors. When they are suddenly exposed to cold weather during transport, this can cause a lot of stress. This is worsened by the fact that feed is withheld from pigs before heading to slaughter – making them extra susceptible for cold stress. Cold does not only cause stress, it can also cause frost-bite to the ears and feet – causing a lot of pain. Pigs that have spent time in the cold will also walk with stiffness causing further animal-welfare problems when they are being moved, and often rushed, through the slaughterhouse facility.
Today about a quarter of the pigs were transported in closed cross-ventilated trucks. The temperature inside these trucks was about 10 degrees higher than in conventional trucks (as less wind is entering the truck, pigs produce warmth themselves and it sometimes has heaters too). In cold periods this can be an advantage. However in the summer they can cause problems too (heatstress and high humidity).
Eyes on Animals will campaign for more consistency and a clear policy regarding measures that must be taken in the winter to avoid cold-stress for animals in transit. For example by closing the side shutters and putting a thick layer of bedding in the truck. This will prevent a lot of unnecessary stress and discomfort.