Today, Eyes on Animals visited pig slaughterhouse Vion in Groenlo. VION Groenlo has made a number of adjustments to lower the stress level in their slaughterhouse. The most important changes are:
- Pigs are being unloaded in smaller groups (appr. 15 pigs) to reduce stress and prevent bottle necks.
- The handlers have received additional animal welfare training. They have been selected for their calm disposition and almost all of the workers share a common language for better communication.
- The raceway has been improved with increased consideration for the natural behavior of pigs; it now has several ‘offset steps’, and a conveyor belt to walk on lined with high walls. This prevents stress, bottle necking and pile ups as much as possible.
- Sharp color contrasts in the raceway have been eliminated as much as possible by painting everything black (floors, walls etc.).
- The offloading ramp has a low gradient so that pigs are less fearful to walk down.
Eyes on Animals is pleased with the effort Vion Groenlo put into improving their plant; the handling of the pigs was calm and the stress among the pigs was greatly reduced compared to our previous visit.
In some areas of the slaughterhouse the stress level was still too high however. Our greatest concern was the noise level in the lairage. This was too high, causing unnecessary stress among pigs beforehand. We have therefore advised VION to place noise reduction wall-dividers and to also limit the mixing of pigs in the lairage (so there are less hierarchy fights ). We also advised them to make the groups of pigs (when moved towards the electric stunner) even smaller, so stress and pile ups are further reduced.
Finally, VION Groenlo has installed a floor conveyor belt so that pigs move towards the belly-restrainer of the Midas/Marel more easily (where they are electrically stunned ). Many pigs find the Midas/Marel design scary and are afraid to walk in, they are consequently forced inside by workers (with a lot of stress). This is an on-going problem with the Midas/Marel design that we see at all slaughterhouses using it. Installing a conveyor belt slightly reduced this stress. We do recommend limiting the speed of the conveyor belt and to only turn it on for the pigs that do not want to walk in on their own. The slaughter rate at VION Groenlo is now at 500 pigs an hour.
We would like to thank VION for the improvements they have implemented so far and their willingness to further reduce the stress level among pigs.