In a time where slaughterhouses and their staff are under scrutiny due to Covid-19, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) released a scientific opinion on pig welfare during the slaughter process. Their view: most welfare issues at slaughter are due to inadequate staff skills and poorly designed and constructed facilities.
The European Commission requested the scientific opinion. It is based on the latest available scientific knowledge and is developed in consultation with animal welfare experts from EU member states. The article proposes measures to address the welfare hazards most commonly associated with the slaughter of pigs for food production and follows similar earlier opinions on poultry and rabbits.
The scientific opinion is important, as it will most likely play an important role in the EU’s future approach to pig welfare at slaughter. In a press release, Marta Hugas, EFSA’s chief scientist, said: “As part of its new Farm to Fork strategy, the European Commission is reviewing current provisions on animal welfare, with the aim of creating a more sustainable food system in the EU. This series of opinions, plus others that we will deliver in the next few years, will provide the scientific basis for that review.
She added, “Having high standards of animal welfare improves animal health and food quality, reduces the need for medication and can help preserve biodiversity. Healthy, well looked-after animals are essential to a healthy food chain.”
The scientific opinion included various recommendations on what to do with pigs in the process of slaughter to ensure animal welfare.
Meanwhile in Asia, large modern slaughterhouses are being built.
The overview on pigs covers the slaughter process in 3 phases:
The scientific opinion identified 30 hazards, including heat stress, thirst, prolonged hunger and respiratory distress. Most of the hazards – 29 out of 30 – are the consequence of staff failings due to factors such as lack of training and fatigue, EFSA said, adding that preventive measures can be put in place for all the hazards with site management identified as having a crucial role to play in prevention.
The scientific opinion in the EFSA Journal was authored by the EFSA Panel on Animal Health and Welfare (AHAW), consisting of Søren Saxmose Nielsen, Julio Alvarez, Dominique Joseph Bicout, Paolo Calistri, Klaus Depner, Julian Ashley Drewe, Bruno Garin‐Bastuji, Jose Luis Gonzales Rojas, Christian Gortázar Schmidt, Virginie Michel, Miguel Ángel Miranda Chueca, Helen Clare Roberts, Liisa Helena Sihvonen, Hans Spoolder, Karl Stahl, Arvo Viltrop, Christoph Winckler, Denise Candiani, Chiara Fabris, Yves Van der Stede and Antonio Velarde.