Today we inspected Compaxo, a pig slaughterhouse in Zevenaar. Outside temperatures are 33 degrees Celsius in the shade and 37 degrees Celsius in the sun. Because the temperature is above 27 degrees Celsius the industry’s heat protocol is active.
We are welcomed by two managers from Compaxo. They explain to us that the arrival of pigs is staggered over the course of the day and that less pigs are being slaughtered, so waiting times are kept to a minimum. Their goal is to have all pigs delivered before 13:00 to avoid them being transported during the hottest part of the day. However, if trucks do arrive at the same time they are sent to a nearby parking lot where there is shade, or the driver is asked to keep driving to improve ventilation inside the trucks.
While we are talking with the managers and employee comes in to tell us there is an error in the slaughterline. It means the slaughtering can no longer continue and all trucks that arrive have to wait. We use this time to visit the lairage and waiting trucks on the parking lot.
In the parking lot we see 4 trucks. All trucks are parked next to trees, so the pigs inside the trucks are provided with some shade. Nevertheless, we see several pigs suffering from heat stress. They are panting and breathing rapidly.
In one truck (a modern cross ventilated truck) the pigs are calmer even though the inside temperature is very high (33 degrees). This is probably due to the big powerful fans keeping the humidity levels inside the truck very low.
In the unloading area of the slaughterhouse we observe one waiting truck. It cannot unload the pigs, because the lairage is full. The pigs inside the truck are extremely stressed, especially the ones behind the driver’s cab (where the engine is). In this compartment the humidity level is over 80% with a temperature of 33 degrees Celsius. The levels are extremely dangerous. All pigs are panting really fast and one is collapsed on the floor breathing really fast. We ask the driver to shut down the engine as it is producing extra heat. The driver does as we ask and the humidity decreases by 10%. But still the levels are too high. We express our concern to the managers of Compaxo and strongly recommend they purchase big industrial fans for the unloading area as soon as possible – as it is far too humid and warm inside (31 degrees Celsius and humidity level of 62%). The managers tell us they will seriously consider this.
In the lairage most pigs have enough space, however there are a few pens where the density is too high. In these pens the pigs cannot lie down comfortably especially during this heat when there is a need for them to have more space to try and keep cool. There is a misting system in the lairage which makes the climate quite comfortable. Inside the lairage we do not see any pigs with heat stress but we do see a lot of restless pigs and several are fighting. Compaxo tells us that this problem has occurred since many pigs are no longer castrated. Eyes on Animals is busy organizing a meeting on this topic with scientists and people from industry to see if there are solutions to this problem.
After a few hours the error in the slaughterline is fixed and the unloading and slaughtering of pigs can progress.