Legal requirements and assessment of stress and welfare during transportation and pre-slaughter handling of pigs

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Transportation is considered as a major stressor for farm animals and might have deleterious effects on the health, wellbeing, performance and ultimately on product quality. The European Commission has adopted new transportation rules for animal transport, but research on stress related situations before, during and after transport is still scarce. Assessment of stress during animal transportation requires non-invasive methods as classical approaches of collection with direct human interference (i.e. for blood collection and heart rate measurement) might directly alter the stress response. Telemetric devices for measuring heart and respiration rate, body temperature and blood pressure are useful tools to obtain undisturbed responses. Also, noninvasive measurements of stress indicating metabolites in saliva, faeces or urine have been recently developed and validated. Parallel to behavioural observations, these physiological measurements provide valuable information on how livestock handling and transportation can be improved.

Apart from methodological solutions for measuring stress and welfare, the appropriate handling of farm animals during transportation and the pre-slaughter period should be monitored as part of a quality assurance scheme. Based on the Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Point (HACCP) concept, critical control points for pre-slaughter handling and transport of pigs are proposed.