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NPA responds to consumer concerns over method of dispatching sick piglets

1st Aug 2018 / By

While the use of so-called “blunt force trauma” may seem like an act of animal cruelty and can be distressing to watch, this method is recognised as an effective and appropriate way of humanely killing a piglet to prevent it suffering further from pain or illness.

Members of the public have raised concerns following recent media coverage of footage obtained on Rosebury Farm by vegan campaigners. Images showed a farm worker swinging a piglet so that its head made forceful contact with a door frame.

Rosebury Farm had its Red Tractor certificate withdrawn last week for using an electric goad on pigs whilst loading them for transport to slaughter.

However, in a statement released earlier this week Red Tractor defended the use of blunt force trauma seen in some of the images:

“Sadly, some animals on livestock farms become too ill to treat. In these emergencies and to avoid unnecessary pain or suffering, farmers using an internationally recognised method and having been trained by their vet are permitted by law to humanely ‘dispatch’ such casualty animals.

“This is in line with all other assurance schemes including the RSPCA.” 

This is echoed in a briefing paper written by the National Pig Association, which outlines the rules surrounding humane slaughter of pigs on farms in emergency situations.

The briefing highlights guidance from the Humane Slaughter Association (HSA) that external trauma, involving a heavy blow to the head either against a solid surface or using a blunt instrument, is a recommended method for humanely killing piglets under 4 weeks of age or 5 kg.

On Red Tractor assured farms, any person who carries out pig euthanasia must be trained in the appropriate methods and assessed for competence by their veterinary surgeon.

A spokesperson from the Pig Veterinary Society also advised The need to kill a piglet on farm is not a decision that is taken lightly, but is done only after carefully considering the animal’s circumstances, its welfare and the degree of suffering.

“Pig personnel, having been trained by their veterinary surgeon, are required to make such difficult decisions in keeping with the animal’s best interests.

“A well-placed blow to the head in accordance with correct procedure, as trained under veterinary supervision, is effective for killing a piglet up to 5kg and is therefore deemed to be acceptable for any piglet of that age that is experiencing intense pain and/or prolonged suffering or has failed to respond to treatment and suffering cannot be alleviated in any other way.

“It is essential that the method is quick and that the piglet is handled humanely throughout the procedure. Attention is then turned to the reason for the loss and what can be done to prevent such losses in future.”