Today we inspected Compaxo, a Dutch pig slaughterhouse, killing 600 pigs per hour. We watched the unloading of several pig trucks and the handling of the animals before and during slaughter.
This plant uses electricity to stun the animals, instead of the now common but highly-debated method of CO2 gas. We were told that they were under pressure to switch to CO2 because some wholesale distributors complain about blood splashes in the meat caused by the electric stunning. However, pigs find the alternative stunning method of CO2 very aversive and research has shown that they take 8 - 20 seconds to suffocate. This is another example of consumers putting demands on the industry (visually pleasing and uniform meat) that lead to additional suffering.
If electric stunning is performed using a correct amount of voltage, Eyes on Animals feels that it causes less suffering than CO2. BUT it is vital to the pigs' welfare that adequate voltage remain in use regardless of the risk of blood spots.
Despite the pigs not coming from far away, three of them had to be emergency slaughtered at the unloading ramp because they were not in a good condition or too exhausted to walk towards the slaughter area. The slaughterhouse was properly equiped with the tools to perform this task, and the veterinarian was present.
In general, this slaughterhouse had taken some good initiatives to reduce suffering, namely: not overcrowding the waiting pens, blocking the heat from the sunlight, giving welfare trainings to their employees and forbiding electric prods during unloading. As well, the attitude of the owners was very open and forward-thinking (we could hold a good discussion about animal welfare science). Nevertheless Eyes on Animals did suggest several things that should be improved on, such as installing rubber on their metal gates and doors to decrease the noise level (as the Leeuwarden cattle market did), and to reduce the rush/stress when moving pigs from the last pen into the stunning chute. We also had some concern about the steepness of their ramp used to unload pigs from the third floor of trucks, as animals with sore legs had no choice but to put pressure on them due to the gravity.
Eyes on Animals wishes to thank the plant for being transparent and hopes that they will take action on our recommendations.