Development of a monitoring system for the assessment of cattle welfare in abattoirs

University essay from SLU/Dept. of Animal Environment and Health

Abstract: Welfare Quality is an EU-funded project, aiming at integrating animal welfare into the food quality chain, by developing on-farm and abattoir monitoring systems, product information systems, and practical strategies for welfare improvements (21). Welfare Quality is an integrated research project spanning from 2004-2009 and involving 17 institutes and universities within and outside Europe. Within the Welfare Quality subtask 2.2.2, a number of protocols for monitoring of fear and injurious behaviours and of stun quality indicators have been produced by Algers (24-27). The protocols are intended to be used as tools in the assessment of overall cattle welfare in the slaughter house environment. Carcass bruise scoring was also reported as possible to include in the assessment. The aim of this study was to investigate the potential for using the above mentioned protocols and bruise scoring in a monitoring system that enables overall welfare assessment of cattle at slaughter, from unloading to stunning. A survey of the practicability of measures and also time and labour requirements was made by me during two test trials at five Swedish abattoirs in the summer/autumn of 2008. Changes and refinements are presented, resulting in a final monitoring system proposal. Results from test trials showed great potential for using the refined protocols in a monitoring system, facilitating overall welfare assessment. However, to complete the system, inclusion of a protocol for monitoring of behaviour in the stun box, a general plant description, space for subjective comments and possibly also inclusion of a bruise scoring sheet, are proposed. It was concluded that monitoring of stun quality should be carefully adapted to the stunning method used, and a specific protocol for electrical stunning has been outlined, but will need further revision. The issue of slaughter without stunning is brought up in short and the need to further develop the definitions of behaviours and events is emphasized. Time and labour requirements for monitoring are roughly outlined. Changes and refinements are summarized in a final monitoring system proposal. The discussion centres on the assessment system approach chosen by Welfare Quality® and on the main drawbacks and possibilities that can be attributed to the proposed monitoring system.

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