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Journal of the South African Veterinary Association

Print version ISSN 1019-9128


SPENCER, B T  and  VEARY, C M. A study of preslaughter pig handling and stunning in selected South African Highveld region abattoirs. J. S. Afr. Vet. Assoc. [online]. 2010, vol.81, n.2, pp. 102-109. ISSN 1019-9128.

The study hypothesis was that pre-slaughter handling is not conducted in such a way that pigs can be considered humanely slaughtered, nor is it conducive to promoting those properties of fresh meat that could enhance pork quality. The 1st phase of the investigation was aimed at confirming the present compliance level within the prescribed norms. To this end the importance of stunning induction requirements for effective electrical stunning, the welfare implications relating to the pre-slaughter handling of pigs and the stunning and sticking techniques were investigated. Pre-slaughter welfare of the pigs at the abattoir was found to be influenced at the outset by the origin and type of pig slaughtered, the daily throughput range of pigs and the type of abattoir involved. A disappointing pre-arrival aspect was that deficiencies in road motor vehicles were observed while off-loading pigs. Through poor design or lack of maintenance, another factor that hampered free movement of pigs was the off-loading facilities. The nature of animal behaviour in the pens, in the passages and when going into the stunning area was directly related to the pig handling efficiency and to the nature and extent of design and maintenance problems with equipment. None of the abattoirs had a well designed in-feed to a well planned stunning area/facility, and a very high level of pig pre-slaughter stress prevailed. The optimum position of the electrodes is virtually impossible to attain under practical conditions and the practice of repeat application of electrical stunning is common. Of the total sample size (n = 1175), 34 % were difficult to shackle, 90 % of these being from the abattoirs tending to slaughter more routinely a wide range of different sized pigs. In this survey 149 pigs (13 %) required more than a single sticking attempt to bleed out properly, considerably higher than in other published reports.

Keywords : compliance level; Highveld region (South Africa); pig electrical stunning; structured questionnaire survey; welfare aspects.

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