The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has released a scientific opinion assessing the welfare of pigs at slaughter and has concluded that most of the hazards are due to inadequate staff skills and poorly designed and constructed facilities. The scientific opinion is the latest in a series of updated assessments on animal welfare at slaughter requested by the European Commission. It proposes measures to address the welfare hazards most commonly associated with the slaughter of pigs for food production and follows similar opinions on poultry and rabbits. A further opinion on cattle will follow later this year.
“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 European Union,” said Marta Hugas, EFSA’s chief scientist, in a press release. “This series of opinions, plus others that we will deliver in the next few years, will provide the scientific basis for that review.”
The comprehensive overview of pigs covers the slaughter process from arrival and unloading of pigs through stunning to bleeding and killing. It identifies several hazards that give rise to welfare issues—such as heat stress, thirst, prolonged hunger, and respiratory distress—and proposes preventive and corrective measures where possible.
As with the previous opinion on poultry, most of the hazards—29 out of 30 identified—are the consequence of staff failings due to factors such as lack of training and fatigue. Preventive measures can be put in place for all the hazards, said EFSA, with site management identified as having a crucial role to play in prevention.
The findings will be used by the European Commission in discussions with the World Organization on Animal Health (OIE) aimed at aligning approaches to animal welfare at slaughter.