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Taking Lambs to the Slaughter: Marketing Channels, Journey Structures and Possible Consequences for Welfare

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Abstract:

Consumers now demand evidence of welfare assurance at all stages of animal production, marketing, transport and slaughter. In response, retailers have increasingly adopted preferred supply chain relationships which preclude sourcing animals via livestock auction markets. One of the criteria dictating this action is a perceived improvement in animal welfare resulting from direct transport from farm to abattoir.

A survey of complete journey structures of 18 393 slaughterweight lambs from farm to abattoir was conducted between April and July 1997. Journeys were characterized in terms of distances travelled, duration and the number of discrete components within a whole journey which comprised: transport; trans-shipping (when animals were transferred from one vehicle to another); multiple pickups from a number of farms; and holding at either assembly points, lairages or auction markets. The results identified that journeys in the livestock distribution system are diverse and range in complexity, irrespective of marketing channel. Journey complexity was found to be positively related to distance travelled.

The study demonstrates that discussions concerning welfare of livestock in transit should consider the journey structure and not just the marketing channel per se. Furthermore, it also shows that changes taking place in the infrastructure of the marketing and meat processing sectors may result in a reduction in animal welfare.

Keywords: ANIMAL WELFARE; DISTRIBUTION CHANNELS; JOURNEY STRUCTURE; LAMBS; LIVESTOCK AUCTION MARKETS

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2000

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