Today an EonA team was in Friesland and decided to check on the new mobile slaughter units run by the owner of Dokkum cattle slaughterhouse. Three days a week, 4 of his “ mobile slaughter trucks” travel to farms in the 3 northern provinces, to slaughter cows that are no longer fit for transport, but still good for consumption. His mobile slaughter units are also used to slaughter cattle raised on nature reserves, and which are not tame enough to withstand the stress of being transported.
In general, we support the idea of on-farm slaughter, as it avoids the extra stress caused by transport and being slaughtered in an unfamiliar environment. Nevertheless, there is a concern that dairy farmers may avoid quickly and humanely euthanizing a freshly injured or medically treating a sick cow, in the hope that the meat can still be saved and money earned, now that there is a mobile slaughterhouse. The owner of the mobile units insists this risk is avoidable, because an injured cow left waiting too long will develop a fever, making the meat no longer fit for consumption anyhow, and because he is strict as to what types of unfit cattle he accepts, fast at getting to the farm and under constant surveillance by the NVWA or private vet, one of which must always be present during the slaughter. We trailed one of his mobile units and observed how one slightly limping cow walked onto the mobile slaughterhouse to be stunned and de-bled.
Should an animal be freshly injured and no longer able to walk, we were told that she or he is rendered unconscious by a captive bolt pistol where she or he is lying down and never dragged. Only after the animal is unconscious, is the body dragged up onto the mobile slaughter unit to be bled out. Should the mobile unit not have time to slaughter a freshly injured cow, the owner recommends to the farmer to have the animal euthanized or medically treated by a veterinarian asap.
Given the number of crippled cows we continue to see at the livestock markets and slaughterhouses, we do hope that these mobile slaughterhouses will help curb these numbers, so only cattle that can walk well on all 4 legs be forced to undergo the stress of first being marketed or collected. We do hope that farmers use the mobile slaughterhouse as a way to avoid extra stress for those cattle in need of being put out of their misery quickly, but never force their animals to wait longer in agony. The mobile unit idea has great potential to improve welfare, but a large part of its success will depend on the honesty and professionalism of the farmers, the mobile unit drivers and the private and NVWA veterinarians. Should injured cows be found waiting in agony or dragged, there will be no future for such ideas.