Today, Eyes on Animals made an unannounced visit to slaughterhouse ESBRO in Wehl. At the slaughterhouse, 240,000 broiler chickens are slaughtered every day, including broiler chickens with a Better Life star label and Gildehoen broiler chickens that have been raised without the use of antibiotics.
At ESBRO the broilers are rendered unconscious with a STORK gas stunning system. The broilers are supplied in containers. The containers tilt automatically to tip the broilers onto a conveyor belt. They are then taken through a tunnel where they are stunned with increasing concentrations of CO2. ESBRO has informed us that they would like to progress to a more up to date gas stunning system, where broilers do not have to be tilted and tipped out whilst alive. Although ESBRO has made some adjustments to the tilting stage, making it a slightly smoother transition, it remains a stress moment for the broilers. In the newer gas stunning systems, the broilers can remain in the container whilst being stunned, making it no longer necessary to tilt and tip them onto the conveyor belt.
We have provided ESBRO with some guidance on how to improve the slaughter process, such as reducing the noise in the waiting area, which helps reduce the birds stress and to draw up a procedure in cases where they are not properly stunned.
We were impressed by several measures that ESBRO has taken to limit heat stress in broilers. For example, when it is hot they use special trucks that carry large mobile fans. These ‘fan trucks’ are placed next to the poultry cars to ensure good air flow. These ‘fan trucks’ also have a kind of sun screen which creates shade for the poultry cars next to them, they also wet the ground on which the poultry cars are standing as this helps to provide a cooling effect. Additionally, large fans have been installed in the waiting area to help cool the birds. Heat stress is still the main cause of mortality among broilers in containers – the measures ESBRO has taken are positive steps forward regarding the welfare of broilers. We would like to thanks ESBRO for their time and openness.