Today we visited a small pig and cattle slaughterhouse near Utrecht. We had heard many positive things about this plant, namely that the family that run it take animal-welfare very seriously and are very creative with solutions to common welfare problems. For example, they dab vinegar on the necks of the pigs when they arrive, as this helps prevent that they fight while mixed in the lairage. Indeed we were positively surprised when walking through the lairage- the animals were resting on deep bedding and had environmental enrichment such as ropes and plastic cans and rubber mats to forage and play with.
They keep the animals overnight and feed and water them. This is done so that the animals become accustomed to the voice of the slaughterman, and see him as someone nice who gives them food, so they are not afraid when he finally brings them to the slaughter room the next day. The slaughterman spoke softly to the animals and moved them with patience. The lairage is in a completely separate room from the slaughter area, meaning that the animals in the lairage can rest and it is quiet. We had a concern about the method chosen to electric stun the pigs and suggested, to be absolutely certain the animals are unconccious, it was best to perform heart stunning as well after head stunning. After receiving our report with this recommendation, they wrote us back to confirm that they now do this, which shows they are open to new ideas to be as humane as possible.