Following our advice, slaughterhouse Gosschalk has implemented several improvements to reduce the stress level among the pigs. To further improve, Gosschalk gave us permission to also conduct unannounced inspections at their location. Today was the first inspection.
The inspection today was done based on camera-footage, both live and stored images taken at Gosschalk. Gosschalk uses an intelligent camera and sensor system by Argus, which detects deviations. Our impression of this system was very positive. It helped enormously to detect any abnormalities quickly and provide specific advice accordingly.
Today we mainly observed the automatic stunning by the Midas system (Marel). From visits to other slaughterhouses, we know that pigs are sometimes “missed” by the automatic stunner. When ‘missed’ these pigs need to receive additional stunning as quickly as possible. At Gosschalk, this was done efficiently; pigs that were missed, were immediately noticed and emergency stunned with a manual electric tong. Nevertheless, we suggested the use of a camera to determine why pigs are sometimes missed, as this in itself is a serious animal welfare concern. We want to find out if this is caused by a system error, or if things go wrong prior to that which can be improved. We also looked at the welfare and condition of the pigs during unloading. We advised to unload in smaller groups, place extra cross slats on the floor (for more grip) and pigs that are exhausted (heart and circulation defects) to be stunned with electrical tongs immediately. Gosschalk will get to work on our advice and has already made a start with several issues.
It is unique that a slaughterhouse gives us permission to visit unannounced. This shows that they genuinely want to do better. Nevertheless, Eyes on Animals is still a small organisation. An unannounced inspection is no guarantee that the slaughterhouse does all things right, but they are making an effort to improve and want to be transparent.
Finally, we want to mention that at Gosschalk 450 pigs per hour are being moved through just one raceway to the stunner. In many other Dutch slaughterhouses the average per hour (per stunner) is even higher. It is a unrealistic to think we can slaughter hundreds of pigs per hour without stress, mistakes, or animal welfare risks. We have visited only a few slaughterhouses where the stress was minimal and these were all small scale (20-100 pigs per hour).