Critical points in the transport of cattle to slaughter in Spain that may compromise the animals' welfare

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The welfare of cattle depends greatly on the attitudes and training of stockpersons and on the availability of appropriate facilities. Much has been learned about stress during transport, but less attention has been paid to identifying and correcting critical points, partly because they vary widely both nationally and internationally. A survey of cattle transport in Spain was made in an effort to determine which parts of the process most compromised the animals' welfare. Data were collected on the methods and facilities for loading and unloading, transport times, types of vehicle and slaughterhouse practices. Loading facilities were adequate and loading times generally short but some farms continued to use an electric goad and weather-proofing was generally poor. The average journey time within Spain was three-and-a-half hours, but many trips were made abroad (especially to Italy), few drivers received specific training courses and the types and quality of vehicles varied widely. The average unloading time was very short but the animals were not always inspected for injuries or dirtiness. Lairage times were normally more than eight hours but few slaughterhouses had air-conditioning equipment to prevent excessive heat or dehydration. Almost all stockpersons avoided either regrouping animals or housing or transporting animals at high densities.