May 25, 2019

Animal Welfare

A task that is unquestionable
By Vet. Rodolfo César Acerbi )

The problematical went from the academic debate to the official regulations. Today the Veterinary Services of the main bovine meat producer and consumer countries already have obligatory legislation. In South America, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay began to quantify the losses by bad treatments through nongovernmental Institutions. We will describe the main recommendations for the methods of preparation and transport of the animals to the slaughterhouses.

Years ago, in Argentina it was strange to talk about animal welfare. Arguments such as: “that is something for the European because of their problems with intensive production and confinement, that produced serious epidemics during the 90s, especially the Classic Pig Plague and the “crazy cow” (bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy).
This subject and its discussion in Europe certainly older than the sanitary problems previously mentioned. Argentina has its own history.


Although nowadays the subject takes part of most of the ranching education events, there’s still a long way so that the operative concepts that form the bases of a correct work, in this case with the bovines, are known and applied in an appropriate way.

If there’s a reason for this to be happening, many would say surely that it’s because of the novelty of the subject. And that it makes difficult its understanding.
I‘ll tell them that nothing is true about such affirmation.

In 1819 Juan Manuel de Rosas, wrote up “Instructions to the Estancia butlers”.
There he said:
“when herding, people do not have to shout nor to excite the cattle”…
” No cattle must be in the corral where it is tight and cannot lie down with comfort”…

It’s been 189 years since the birth of the principles of the animal welfare in Argentina. It’s fair to say that this title for these good practices for cattle handling that had an economic purpose was not known.

Rosas is not the only case in our country.
The author of Martín Fierro, Jose Hernandez, wrote “Instructions for the farmer” in 1882. These are some of the rules it placed:

“it does not have to be allowed, especially in troops, who punish the cattle by the back”…

“The cattle must be tranquil in the grassland; no one is allowed to excite them uselessly”…

“Do not permit anything to scare the cattle when they are confined”…


Anyway, it is necessary to ask why the Animal welfare became stronger in the first months of the year 2000, also at World Organisation for Animal Health (the OIE) which headquarters are in Paris, France.
The 167 Member States gave power to its Director General to create a special group of experts in order to write up an updated document with recommendations to legislate on the matter, giving priority to the transport methods.
The arguments set out during the numerous OIE General Assemblies concluded that this subject was an animal health issue, and it had a significant impact in the quality of meat from animals raised as livestock.
The European Union developed an ample Legislation for the Union and their third parties markets suppliers, and the United States took care of the subject at a high level of exigency for the slaughterhouses, especially those where bovine meat is produced, creating one complete legislation in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), that must be applied by The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), within their territory and be demanded to the third party suppliers countries.


Nowadays, an Argentinean slaughterhouse that already has the permission given by SENASA (National Service of Health and Agro-alimentary Quality) to export bovine meat to US (only cooked) and/or to the EU, can lose this permission automatically if it does not follow the effective legislation in those Markets. Therefore, the subject went from academic debates to obligatory legislation in the official Veterinary Services of countries that are the main bovine meat consumers and producers.

Producers of meat in South America like Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina began to quantify the kilos of bovine meat that were lost by bad treatments undergone in the rural establishments, during the transport and finally in the slaughterhouses. Surprisingly, the losses represented millions of dollars.
In 2003 and 2004 The INAC (National Institute of Meats) of Uruguay published series of booklets with statistical works, where the damages in kilos and dollars produced by the inadequate treatments of the cattle during the process of meat production are clearly showed.

With the Group of Animal Welfare of the Veterinary Sciences College of Tandil- UNICEN- we began to carry out our first observation works in 2005. Its result was the first work entirely financed by IPCVA: “Evaluation of the cattle practices in bovine livestock that cause economic damages at slaughterhouses of Argentina”. Of this freely distributed publication, I want to emphasize two conclusions:

1º the percentage of animal with different injuries (blows) found in the slaughterhouses, where the research took place, was from 40% in the plant “A” and  66% in plant “B”.

2º with that information, at least 14 million kilos of meat are destroyed because of this reason a year. (This is 50% of the HILTON quota of 28 million kilos of meat)

The group has culminated in 2007 with its second observation research, also financed by the denominated IPCVA “Evaluation of the practices related to the Terrestrial Transport of the livestock that cause to economic damages in the chain of cattle and meat”.
It will be available for the readers in 2008.


Why the meat producer causes losses to himself?  The main cause is unawareness that it happens during the handling of the cattle, since the leather “covers the problem”.
The cattle producer strives for improving day by day its production through the optimization of the sanitary handling, better pasture yards and conservation of hay and grains; and the use of genetic resources to obtain the maximum production of meat by hectare. Nevertheless, he neglects the dangers of loss in the quality of the meat that is produced during the process of load and transport of the cattle to the slaughterhouse. There the negative facts take place and the impact in the quality of the meat for consumption.

The meat industry discounts to the producer, year after year, millions of dollars because of hematomas and dark-colored meat that were generated, in its totality, by bad treatments in the process previously described.
The consumers, especially those that buy Argentinean meat in foreign countries, strongly indicated their exigencies in this subject and have obtained legislation for the protection of the animal.
Also in our country this legislation was obtained to be fulfilled at slaughterhouses (mandatory), ranches and transport (still voluntary).
We must remember that the OIE, by all its member states, was designed to assume world-wide role at this subject and to elaborate international legislation.


• It is due to remember that cows are animals that move in herd and fears of being attacked. Therefore, it tries to escape from the predator (the man).
• These concepts, when respected, strongly favor the work with the animal, since the herd will run the way it is needed.
• So that the animal moves in the wished direction, the operator must enter the escape zone, and vice versa to make the animal stop.
• The balance point is in back of the animal. The cattle will move forward if the operator is located behind the balance point and will move backward if the operator located in front of this point.
• When herding is recommendable not to leave an animal isolated from the rest of the herd. Never leave the animal without chances to escape from the operator.
• The transportation must be done without hardships and avoiding scaring the animals. It is necessary to eliminate the shouts, sticks, picanas, whips and dogs (unless they are trained).
• Is recommendable the work on foot in corrals or from its outer perimeter.
• Take into account the climatic conditions (temperatures, storms, etc.), planning the working hours, choosing the best hours for every season of the year.
• Let the cattle rest and recover from physical exhausting that the transfer could have caused. It is recommended not less than 12hs and not more than 72hs.


• All the stages of the process, as well as the transport of the cattle to the slaughterhouse, are frequent causes of stress that will have consequences in the final quality of the meat and the well-being of the animal. These damages become important economic losses for all the meat chain.
• Unnecessary punishment to the animal can cause not only bad aspect of the cuts but also bacterial infections.
• The dark-colored cuts have alterations in the degree of acidity (pH) and consequently bring negative effects on the quality and the time accepted for consumption. This is caused by stress and physical exhaustion.
• The feeding must be light and the cattle must have access to water, shelter from cold winds and shade in the periods of high temperatures. It is recommended not to offer additional feeding the 6 previous hours to the load (hays, rolls, etc.).
• Is recommended not to mix animals from different ranches (animals that do not know each other).
• Never mix cows in fervor with bulls.
• Transport only animals that are strong enough to tolerate a transfer.
• Transport a suitable number of cattle according to the capacity of the cage truck.
• Don’t use picanas, sticks, and whips nor beat systematically the animal on the backs during the boarding.
• The boarding incline must have smooth and solid walls, the angle of the floor does not have to be greater than 20 degrees and it has to be nonskid.
• Before beginning the operation Check that the transporting truck is prepared for the correct transport of cattle to the slaughterhouse (design, capacity, hygiene)
• Give at least 20 minutes to the cattle to comply inside the cage, after loaded the last animal.
• The truck driver must know the concepts of transport regarding animal welfare.
• Check that the chosen route to the slaughterhouse is the correct one, to know the time that the journey will take, and the planned stops (place and duration).
• The density of load must be the appropriate one according to the number of the animal and their corporal condition (categories). For such aim, it is due to fulfill the official tables of load.
• Check the time of arrival to the slaughterhouse in agreement