Basic Causes of Animal Welfare Problems
- Proper livestock handling is extremely important to meat packers for
obvious ethical reasons. Once livestock arrive at packing plants, proper
handling procedures are not only important for the animal's well-being,
but can also mean the difference between profits and losses due to meat
quality or worker safety. The Humane Slaughter Act of 1978 dictates
strict animal handling and slaughtering standards for packing plants.
Those standards are monitored by some 7,000 federal meat inspectors
nation-wide. The meat packing industry takes these standards very
- For the best results in animal handling, plant management must make
proper handling and stunning a high priority. Top management must play an
active role. Plants with the best handling and stunning practices have
managers who closely monitor stunning and handling practices. Employees
handling hundreds of animals day after day, sometimes need reminders from
management that animals must always be handled carefully.
- Healthy animals, properly handled, keep the meat industry running
safely, efficiently and profitably.
To correct an animal welfare problem, first
determine the cause:
- Stressful Pre-Slaughter
HandlingThere have been numerous research studies on stunning
methods, but until recently, stress and discomfort during a lairage and
movement of the animals to the stunning point was neglected.
- Distractions that Impede Animal
Movement Animals will often balk and stop moving through a
handling system if there are distractions such as sparkling reflections,
air blowing towards the animals, movement or high pitched noise.
- Lack of Employee Training
Maintaining a high standard of welfare requires constant management
attention and vigilance.
- Poor Equipment MaintenanceThe two
major maintenance problem areas that the author has observed are poor
captive bolt stunner maintenance, and slick floors.
- Poor Condition of the Animals
Arriving at the PlantA recent survey of U.S. cow and bull
slaughter plants indicated that 1% of the cull beef cows and 1.1% of the
cull dairy cows arrive downed and unable to walk (Colorado State
University, 1995). Most of these animals were in bad condition before they
left the farm.
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