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Open AccessArticle

Horse Transport to Three South American Horse Slaughterhouses: A Descriptive Study

Laboratory of Livestock Physiology, Department of Biosystems, KU Leuven, 3001 Heverlee, Belgium
Dier&Welzijn vzw, 3583 Paal, Belgium
Westvlees NV, 8840 Westrozebeke, Belgium
Bioengineering Technology TC, KU Leuven, 2440 Geel, Belgium
Thomas More, 2440 Geel, Belgium
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(4), 602;
Received: 4 March 2020 / Revised: 20 March 2020 / Accepted: 30 March 2020 / Published: 1 April 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Transport on the Road: In Practice)
In the western world, the number of slaughtered horses is decreasing, but still about 5 million horses are slaughtered worldwide each year. The conditions in which horses are transported to the slaughterhouses are a topic of discussion. This study intended to investigate the circumstances of commercial slaughter horse transport and to detect possible risk factors for horse welfare. Therefore, 23 commercial horse transports to three South American slaughterhouses were monitored. During transport, a camera was mounted in each loading space so that horse behaviour could be analysed after transport. Fighting behaviour could not be explained by stocking density, environmental parameters, trailer characteristics, duration and distance of the journey. The temperature and relative humidity were recorded every five minutes in all loading spaces. Average temperatures exceeded the thermoneutral zone in six transports, but it is not clear if and to what extent horse welfare was impaired. Overall, loading and transporting of the horses went well, but the infrastructure of the loading area did not always promote smooth loading and can therefore be improved. At later visits, we noted that this issue was addressed.
Between November 2016 and October 2017, 23 horse transports from 18 collection points to two slaughterhouses in Argentina and one in Uruguay were monitored. The goal of this study was to characterize the current practices in commercial horse transports and to detect potential threats to horse welfare. A total of 596 horses were transported over an average distance of 295 ± 250 km. Average transport duration was 294 ± 153 min. The infrastructure did not always promote smooth loading, but the amount of horses that refused to enter the trailers was limited. In each loading space, a camera was mounted to observe horse behaviour during the journey. Ambient temperature and relative humidity (RH) were recorded every five minutes in each loading space. In 14 of the 23 transports, the maximum temperature rose above 25 °C and the average temperature was over 25 °C during six transports. The average temperature humidity index (THI) exceeded 72 during six transports. The average stocking density was 1.40 ± 0.33 m2 per horse, or 308 ± 53 kg/m2. The degree of aggression differed between the front and rear loading space. Stocking density, environmental parameters, trailer characteristics, and transport duration and distance did not influence aggressiveness. View Full-Text
Keywords: horses; transport; slaughter horses; transport; slaughter
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Nivelle, B.; Vermeulen, L.; Van Beirendonck, S.; Van Thielen, J.; Driessen, B. Horse Transport to Three South American Horse Slaughterhouses: A Descriptive Study. Animals 2020, 10, 602.

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