EonA and TSB|AWF team checked on a big Turkish food company’s slaughterhouse today in Konya. Torku Et is a co-op slaughterhouse which has 16.000 farmer stakeholders. We met with the managers and chief veterinarian of the plant. We talked with them about animal-welfare, showed them our educative brochures and videos about how to reduce suffering during slaughter, and shared our ideas and experiences.
They liked our educative brochures and said that they have already put most of the practices we recommend into practice at their plant. It’s a modern slaughterhouse which was built only 2 years ago. They had visited slaughterhouses in different countries first before designing their own, to get ideas about good practices and design. The Quality Manager was pleased that we took the time to come and said they wanted to know if they had still some mistakes which they could be improved on. This open attitude and willingness to improve is what we very much appreciate and respect.
Their unloading ramp had lateral protection and can fit every size of truck without posing a risk of injury. Their lairage had shade and automatic water troughs in each pen for the animals. Both the unloading area and lairage were clean and designed with gratted, non-slip floors.
The part of the raceway leading to the restraint boxes is “S” shaped with concrete sidewalls and anti-mounting bars, as recommended by experts such as Dr. Temple Grandin. This design avoids unnecessary additional stress to the cattle, as the solid sides mean that they cannot see scary distractions and moving in a round way is known to reduce stress as they feel that they are turning back to where they came from. The entrances into the restraint boxes were lit up and curtains were hung to block the view of the slaughter process on the other side. These two things we always recommend as well, to ease calm movement forward of the animals. When the design takes into account animal behaviour, animals remain calmer and it avoids tired workers losing patience with the animals (thus reduces chance of workers starting to hit them to force them forward).
The slaughterhouse has 2 rotating restraint boxes. Once the cow or bull is in the restraint box, the box rotates the animal 180 degrees so that she or he is lying on the back. They then cut the throat of the animal in this position. We do not support full-inversion restraint boxes because being forced on their back is very stressful for cattle and if left in this position for even short amounts of time, the weight on their lungs can cause them to struggle to breath. Additionally, the animals are still fully conscious when the cut is made to their throat, which is very painful. A relief would be if they only rotated the box 30-45 degrees. Nevertheless, this restraint system is much better than what we see at many other Turkish slaughterhouses which still use the horrible trip-floor boxes, which cause even more suffering as the cattle are hoisted up, fully conscious, by a chain tied onto one leg.
After the neck is cut, one side of the restraint box opens and the animal falls out. The workers wait for one full minute before hoisting the bovine up by the leg, but still we observed that some of the cattle were still conscious when hoisted. Cattle have a vertebral artery that continues to supply the brain with oxygenated blood after the Ritual cut is made to the throat. For this reason cattle remain sentient for up to several minutes after their throats are cut. Fortunately, the workers at least do not start processing the body until all signs of life are gone. They check palpebral reflex to be sure the bovine will not feel any pain when dehiding and cutting the carcass.
They have a separate entrance for emergency slaughter cases. Here a slaughterman is available 24 hrs per day to receive animals that are injured and quickly slaughter them without leaving them to wait in agony for even longer. They tell us that they cut the throat of the bovine on the truck and only then will drag the body out. In many other plants EonA and TSB|AWF have been to in Turkey, downer cattle are dragged out while still fully conscious, hoisted and then cut, which is extremely painful and disturbing to watch. This plant takes much more care.
They will not consider stunning the injured cattle before cutting their throat because they are concerned the stunning will kill the animals, as they are already so weak, and then they fear that the meat will not be considered Halal. Our team, both Muslims themselves, explain that the purpose of pre-stunning is to render the animal insensitive to the pain of the knife entering the neck, and welfare is the main essence of Halal. Causing additional and unecessary pain to an animal during the slaughter process is already in itself not Halal.
Workers are trained to use electric prods as little as possible. We didn’t see any worker use electric prods while we were there. They make some noise next to them or slap them gently on their behinds to push them forward. While we showed them the OIE training video they saw the flags used in the film to move cattle. They were enthusiastic about this type of moving-aid and will order some soon.
This plant was the best so far that we have seen in Turkey. They had put a lot of thought into how to reduce animal-suffering during slaughter and their attitude is very open and they are willing to do more. Mr. Serhat Demirhan (Director), Mr. Engin Ayvaz (Fresh-meat manager) and Mr. Hasan Koca (Qualilty Manager) should be proud.
We discussed certain things that could still be improved on. The corridor before the raceway to the restraint box does not yet have antimounting bars or solid side walls.
Cattle can mount each other and get their legs caught in the gates. We expressed this concern to the managers and veterinarian and they agreed to make the side solid and install anti-mounting bars shortly. The other stressful factor was the level of noise in the plant. Trucks, engines and the many people inside opening and closing the metal gates all made a lot of noise. Noise, particularly abrupt noise like shouting or an engine turning on, can really startle animals that are already nervous from being in a novel environment. We recommended them to install rubber stoppers on the gates to reduce some of the noise, and remind all people entering to keep their voice down.
We will send our report to them and stay in touch with them. We will encourage them to consider upright restraint and also adopt pre-stunning methods, to render the cattle insensitive to the cut of the knife. In the long run we will also aim for injured animals to be humanely euthanized on the farm, and never transport for emergency slaughter. But this is something that even in Europe and North America has not been solved yet, so it will require time. We won’t give up and are pleased to see a slaughterhouse like this on in Turkey, aiming at limiting animal suffering as much as possible.