Yesterday EonA dropped by Gosschalk abattoir to take a look at the unloading and slaughter of cows that Dutch dairy farmers cull and send away. The unloading at Gosschalk went calmly, and the handling via the raceway was with respect. When necessary, the staff worker used a cleaning-brush as a driving tool- he stroked and tapped the backs or hips of the cows to give them a sign to advance.
They have a powerful pneumatic stunner and 3 back-up handheld stunners – all the animals we saw stunned were rendered unconscious correctly and quickly by a worker who was focused and skilled.
The plant has put numerous improvements in place to keep fear or pain to a minimum, such as a poster of a cow on the door entrance of the restraint box (this gives the impression to the cow next in line that she is not alone), Artificial Intelligence cameras everywhere and extra and on-going training of the staff in correct handling.
We would still like to see the abrupt noises (made by some metal gates, chains and the pneumatic stunner) further decreased. We would also like the dairy industry to make more improvements in housing and genetics, as many of the Holsteins are just skin and bones and some slightly laming or with lying wounds and swellings on their leg joints. This is not the fault of the slaughterhouse but rather the laissez-faire attitude of the dairy industry that pushes too hard, and neglects, still too many of its cows. There must be more reciprocity in the dairy sector.
Afterwards we logged onto their AI camera software system to randomly watch footage from previous weeks. We are very pleased that when abnormalities are detected, their animal- welfare officer takes fast corrective action, and that in general the plant is managed well.
The director lets us in unannounced whenever we want and has given us numerous genuine signs and taken action (such as extra training and hiring additional skilled personnel, a big investment) which illustrate that animal-welfare is important at Gosschalk. We wish all slaughterhouses were transparent to us like this. Of course it remains a slaughterhouse, and like all slaughterhouses there will be animal suffering and stress, but at least at Gosschalk we can easily monitor it and improvements are quickly put into place, meaning the level is kept low.