An international team of scientists, led by Spain’s Luis Fernando Gosálvez, has carried out a study in five European countries to identify and evaluate the factors involved in causing injuries or even death in pigs as they are transported to abattoirs. The results show that the stress and suffering the animals undergo would be reduced if more time was spent on loading them properly onto trucks and the temperature was kept down.
The researchers from the University of Lérida (UL) and the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom are in agreement that the death of pigs during transportation must be considered from the perspective of animal welfare as well as the economic losses caused to the livestock sector.
“Of the 112,842 pigs that were transported in Spain between June 2003 and May 2004, 121 were dead upon arrival,” Luis Fernando Gosálvez, lead author of the study and chair in the Animal Production Department at the UL, told SINC.
The study, which has been published recently in Veterinary Record includes statistical analysis applied to a model of logistic regression in the transport of pigs at 37 abattoirs throughout five countries in the European Union: Spain (403 journeys), Portugal (169), France (65), Italy (57) and Germany (45). According to the study, the pigs’ country of origin has no affect on their risk of mortality.
The researchers ascertained the deaths and injuries suffered by the pigs, in the form of bruises and wounds, by conducting interviews with lorry drivers. Animals were bruised in 8.5% of the journeys.
Gonsálvez says the risk of death would decline if more time was spent on loading each of the animals properly, including restraining them inside the lorry. The study confirms that animals were not tied up during transit in more than one quarter of the journeys.
The Spanish and British scientists also looked at other factors affecting the pigs. The air temperature experienced during travel is crucial, since pigs respond negatively and their stress levels rise in line with increasing heat. The study stresses that “pigs should not be transported during the hottest hours of the day”.
Other factors, including the use of electric prods to make the animals move, gender differences, the lack of bedding or ventilation, lack of water to keep them hydrated, and the number of stops during the journey “could also cause stress”.
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