Watching Out - Newsletter

February 2015

Update project to improve conditions for dairy cows 

After presenting our report ‘Giving Milk a Good Shake' and being on the Dutch television program Radar to discuss our concerns about the dairy industry, we have not been idle. At the end of November we spoke at a CowSignal training for dairy farmers. Dairy farmers from Belgium, Ireland, Canada and Poland were present to learn about ‘Stressfree Stockmanship’. Read more

We also spoke in front of over 100 Dutch farm animal vets at the KNMvD conference. Read more

In January we visited a calf slaughterhouse in Apeldoorn (NL). Calves slaughtered here are the “unwanted” male calves from the dairy industry as well as the female calves that are not kept to replace the dairy herd. They are raised on fattening farms in the Netherlands. We identified many positive things, but there were still some points for improvement that we recommended them to take. Read more 

That same month we also visited two dairy farms in Brabant (NL) upon receiving an invitation from Vetvice, an independant group of veterinarians that give advice to dairy farmers on how to design barns according to cow comfort, cattle behaviour and working pleasure. The farmers we visited design their facilities around the animals’ well-being. We discussed the positive points with them, but also our on-going concerns about the quality of housing for many calves in the dairy industry. It is our hope that in the future more and more barns will incorporate the possibility to keep calves with their mothers, at least part-time until a natural weaning age. In the meantime that other efforts, such as group housing, straw bedding, environmental enrichment, space to run and play, be incorporated into calf housing.

What is key, is that there always be an open dialogue and a positive attitude that anything is possible if there is support.

Ad hoc activities

Much of our work is planned, but sometimes a situation forces us to act straight away. On February 3rd we were notified that two trucks loaded with goats from the Netherlands were stuck at the Turkish border. Turkey did not want to let them in. First of all, the trucks had skipped the control post in Bulgaria where both the drivers and the animals should have taken a rest. As a consequence, the animals and drivers were on board for too long. Second of all, some of the male goats were above the maximum age permitted for import into Turkey and two of the animals did not have ear tags that match the Health Certificates. 

We sent a team to the Turkish border to check that the drivers were at least doing their best to provide for the animals blocked inside the vehicles, and to inquire further from the border authorities what was going on. Read more

The next day, after having been stuck at the Turkish border for 2,5 days, the trucks were finally allowed to pass. 

We will send a complaint to the Dutch authorities about the fact that the paperwork for this journey was not in order. This lead to unnecessary delays in the transport journey. In total, the pregnant goats were in transit from The Netherlands to Ankara for 6 days. Read more

Positive reactions to our industry update

We regularly send out an ‘industry update’ in which we share best practices with all people we have met from the livestock industry. We got some very positive replies to our latest industry update about reducing stress and fighting in the lairage pens of pig slaughterhouses. A manager of one pig slaughterhouse reported that he was going to experiment straight away with the ‘samba balls’ we suggested as an alternative to using electric prods or paddles to get the pigs to move forward. 

Via our industry updates, we are spreading knowledge and motivating industry to adapt better practices so that animal suffering is reduced as much as possible. 

Read the latest industry update here.

Work in progress

We are working together with scientists and several players from the pig slaughter industry to come up with an alternative to the current methods to stun pigs before slaughter. In our opinion, the current methods used (electrical stunning and CO2 stunning) cause too much suffering for the animals. We hope to initiate the development of a new alternative that does not cause the stress and suffering that current methods cause.

We are also preparing another visit to Turkey in April, where we will be organizing another seminar about animal-welfare during slaughter. We will also visit new slaughterhouses and slaughterhouses we visited before to check whether the recommended improvements have been made. 

In the beginning of February we met with the Dutch officials from the NVWA. We explained that we would like action to be taken against the farmers, cattle traders and transporters that were involved in the transport of two unfit cows to a livestock market a few months ago. 

We will keep you updated about these items and more via our newsletters, website and Facebook page.

Thank you for your support! 

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