In my 30-year career as an animal scientist, I have focused on two areas of cattle and pig treatment badly in need of major
improvement: farm housing and slaughterhouse handling. Measurements of direct field observations have proven to be a reliable
method for improving animal welfare in these areas.
Housing and related welfare issues of concern that should be assessed are
- The respective percentage of 1) lame, skinny, and dirty animals, 2) animals displaying abnormal behavior, and 3) overcrowded
animals; the presence of dirty, wet bedding; and the detection of high ammonia levels
- Basic environmental accommodations (availability of a generator or other life support back-up system, clean water, and euthanasia
instruments, as well as the quality of facility maintenance)
- Whether housing is adapted to the animals' behavioral needs. For example, research has demonstrated that pigs actively seek
fibrous plant material to forage in, yet modern farming systems often do not provide for this behavioral need. Moreover, sows
on many farms are housed for most of their adult lives in stalls not wide enough for a sow to turn around in. Despite studies
that demonstrate that such stalls do not reduce sow productivity, the ethical considerations of housing sows in these stalls
must be taken into account.
To improve animal welfare in slaughterhouses, I have designed a simple numerical system of plant performance that focuses
on the following critical control points:
- The percentage of cattle that are not stunned with one shot from a captive bolt stunner should be ≤ 5%.
- The percentage of cattle rendered insensible before hoisting must be 100%.
- The percentage of cattle falling down during handling should be ≤ 1%.
- The percentage of cattle vocalizing during handling and stunning should be ≤3%.
- The percentage of cattle moved with an electric prod should be ≤ 25%.
Five-year consecutive audits of industry plants with this scoring system have shown that these slaughterhouses now achieve
better than the minimum performance scores. A numerical scoring system provides tangible results and encourages continuous
Scientific and ethical considerations call for improved and humane farm-animal housing (e.g. phasing out sow stalls and finding ways to make group housing work) and handling in slaughterhouses. However, the farm-animal
industry is only slowly embracing animal welfare standards and the practical systemic audits that assess humane treatment
by measuring directly observable outcomes in the field.
Temple Grandin, PhD
Department of Animal Sciences
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523-1171