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The Council Regulation (EC) No. 1099/2009 requires slaughterhouse managers to implement specific standard operating procedures for all pre-slaughter stages considered at risk, aimed at achieving adequate levels of animal welfare. This survey was aimed at testing the applicability to an abattoir for heavy pigs of an assessment system of animal welfare through animal-based measures. In the monitoring of handling operations, the number of animals fallen/slipped and prodded, and that of vocalising pigs were recorded. In the monitoring of the immobilisation stage, carried out on the same pigs, vocalisations were recorded at the entrance to the box and falls/slips occurring inside it. Animal welfare assessment during the stunning-sticking-bleeding steps, was carried out by recording the head-only electrical stunning basic parameters set by legislation, vocalisations resulting from hot wanding, and clinical signs of consciousness, sensibility and certain death. Except for immobilisation, the percentage of occurrence of these events above acceptability limits was detected in all other preslaughter steps. The most critical stages were: handling in the unloading area and along the single-file chute, stunning and especially bleeding, where 84.13% of animals showed one or more signs of consciousness and/or sensibility recovery. Wrong placement of electrodes observed in 53.98% of the animals, insufficient voltage and low amperage may explain why a high percentage of pigs recovered consciousness and/or sensibility before death. Some simple restructuring of unloading area, slowdown of slaughter line speed, increase of personnel involved in pre-slaughter management and regular calibration of the electrical stunning device could be effectively corrective measures aimed at raising the animal welfare level at the slaughterhouse under study.
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