Today, we paid a surprise visit to VION pig slaughterhouse in Boxtel. The purpose of this visit was to see what measures had been taken to prevent or reduce heat stress in pigs arriving at the slaughterhouse.
Many measures had been taken to lower the temperature for the trucks waiting in front of the slaughterhouse: a canopy provided shade, industrial fans were in place and the pavement was whitened and regularly sprayed with water to cool. A tight schedule was used to prevent insufficient space under the canopy for waiting trucks. We did not observe any pig trucks waiting outside the VION site, unlike the situation in previous years which resulted in overheated pigs.
We are happy we have been able to motivate VION Boxtel to take these measures.We also checked the open trucks and the forced ventilated closed trucks.The majority of drivers respected the loading density during the heat and had reduced the number of pigs loaded by 10%. We still think this is too many animals, but they complied with the current rules in the heat protocol. The temperature in the open trucks was below 32 degrees Celcius, with a 51% humidity. However, we did see that the pigs suffered a lot from the heat and a number of them absolutely suffered from heat stress: very rapid breathing of well above 50 breaths/minute (the maximum allowed).
Panting with wide open mouths covered in foaming saliva was also common.
In one of the forced ventilated closed trucks, the pigs were really stuck in a sauna: in addition to high temperatures (32.8 degrees Celcius) we also measured a very high humidity level of 69%. This truck also held 12 pigs per compartment instead of 10 or 11 as with the other trucks. We are worried about these forced ventilated closed trucks, whether they are all able to release all the heat and humidity.
Of course, we will discuss this with the transporters, bodywork builders and slaughterhouses. Because of this inspection we highly recommend transport during the cooler hours in the evening and night and will continue to push for this. During this inspection we were accompanied by a journalist from the Dutch daily newspaper Trouw, who published an article about this inspection.
We would like to thank VION for their cooperation.