Short as well as long transport duration can affect the welfare of slaughter pigs
Attention to the welfare of animals during slaughter transport and lairage at the abattoir is important not only to consumers, but also to the meat production industry. Inadequate transport conditions can result in higher animal mortalities and meat quality problems after slaughter of such animals. In the present study the development of mortality rates both during and after the transport of slaughter pigs, and the incidence of pathological findings, was investigated. It could be shown that the percentage of animals which died during transport and in lairage clearly decreased between 1999 and 2003. This improvement was due mainly to the reduction of animal losses in the summer season where the highest losses over the investigated years occurred. Considering the duration of the transport it could be shown that not only very long (8 h), but also short journeys (1 h) can affect the welfare of animals with increased mortalities and pathological findings during the veterinary inspection at the slaughterhouse, particularly in the summer season. The results presented indicate that the tightening of European animal welfare legislation concerning loading, transport, unloading and lairage of slaughter pigs improved mortality rates and the incidence of pathological findings. Another reason could be a reduction of the percentage of stress susceptible pigs in the porcine population. However, until now the regulations on animal welfare during pig slaughter transport focused only on long-term journeys; the results presented show that short journeys can also affect the welfare of the animals.
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