Today we made an unannounced visit to pig slaughterhouse Van Rooi in Helmond (NL) due to the recent extreme summer heat. We arrived around 12 noon, when the outside temperature had already reached 37 degrees Celsius in the sun and 33.5 degrees Celsius in the shade. Because the temperature in the shade is below 35 degrees Celsius the industries ‘heat protocol still allows animals to be transported.
Van Rooi has a car park with a roof where trucks can wait in the shade until there is space for them to unload the pigs at the slaughterhouse. Approximately 5 trucks were waiting inside during our visit. The temperature in the car park was 5 degrees lower than outside in the sun (32.8°C instead of 37.1°C). We are impressed with the roofed car park as it at least provides shade for the pigs waiting on stationary trucks on summer days. As well, because the parking lot is open (no side walls), there is some breeze blowing through the area. A roofed parking area is not something that we have seen at other large pig slaughterplants in The Netherlands, where pigs are often left waiting in the direct sun or the drivers are told to try and find some tree line area outside of the slaughterhouse facility.
Nevertheless outside temperatures are so high that the car park does not provide enough protection against the heat. Inside several trucks we see pigs panting and breathing really fast. Eyes on Animals is of the opinion that transporting animals in temperatures above 29 degrees is unacceptable as temperatures above this level will cause heatstress (see figure below).
Van Rooi tells us that they would rather slaughter their pigs during the night so transport during the heat is avoided. However, the Dutch food authorities NVWA and KDS (who must be present during slaughter hours) are not keen on working during the night so Van Rooi has decided to start a court case. Eyes on Animals will discuss this subject with the NVWA as much heat stress can be prevented if animals could be slaughtered during the night.
Van Rooi also tells us he does not favour the cross ventilated livestock trucks, especially not during the heat. Animals are completely dependent on the fans working correctly and efficiently . If they do not work properly or there is an engine breakdown the consequences are enormous. And emergency generators often do not work when needed.