Animal welfare in the meat sector requires maximum cooperation.

Working with animals in the meat sector is subject to strict legal requirements. Our meat processing plants are under permanent surveillance by various authorities and are subjected to camera monitoring. In addition, strict animal welfare protocols have been implemented at sector and individual company level. The meat sector is therefore able to minimise the number of animal welfare incidents that occur in meat processing plants. But, that number should be reduced to zero, says the Dutch Meat Association (COV).

In 2020, members of the COV, including the VanDrie Group, entered into discussions with each other to arrive at a sector-wide code of animal welfare. Karel de Greef, researcher in Animal Husbandry and Society at Wageningen Livestock Research, supervised this process.

Karel de Greef: “The process involved numerous interviews with employees from multiple organisational layers of the various participating organisations, including VanDrie subsidiaries Ekro and T. Boer & zn. This includes board members and location managers, Animal Welfare Officers (AWO), quality managers and production staff who work with animals on a daily basis. An important part of the process was also that stable managers and AWOs from the companies visited each other's production sites, to see and discuss how the other was doing. The findings of the interviews and visits served as a basis for the content of the Code of Conduct.”

It is essential that companies in the meat sector work together more, in order to reflect on and learn from each other's practices for ensuring animal welfare. - Karel de Greef

A key word that encapsulates the process is 'cooperation'. Cooperation is a word that has multiple meanings. Working with animals remains a matter of customisation. On the production line, cooperation between people must be maximised in order to be able to react adequately to animal behaviour and deviations in the process. But on a business-to-business level, it is essential that companies in the meat sector work together more, that they reflect on each other's methods for ensuring animal welfare and that they learn from each other. An equally crucial part is to implement this attitude among employees who work with animals. 

Based on the findings of this process, the sector drew up the 'Code for animal welfare at the slaughterhouse', which came into force at the beginning of May 2021. Key measures included in the Code include establishing long-term working relationships with employees who work in the stall, exchanging experiences and best practices, providing more intensive employee training and involving external animal welfare specialists. By adopting this process, companies in the meat sector have consciously chosen to show openness to each other. When it comes to the careful handling of animals, visiting one another’s sites is an activity that remains ongoing. The challenge now is to ensure that the joint effort is and remains in focus at all levels of the companies.”

Read more about the ‘Code of Animal Welfare at the Slaughterhouse’ here.

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