Pigs treated harshly: criminal investigation into the use of electric shocks

In 2019, a Varkens i Nood employee drove undercover on a livestock truck for nine days. RTL Nieuws owns all (drone) images commissioned by the animal rights organization and has determined that the images are genuine.

Too often

Supervisor NVWA calls the images intense and worthless. “You can see that the hoe is used far too often,” says spokesman Bjørn Elsebrock. “The impacts also take place on body parts that are very sensitive, for example on the head or on the lip, which is really unacceptable.”

The NVWA has received all the raw images and is now investigating them to see if any criminal activity can be seen.

Electric shock device for livestock

The device looks like a large clipper with two prongs on the end. As soon as these pins are pressed against the skin of the pig, the animal receives a painful electric shock of 5000 volts.

The electric shock device, also known as a cattle prod, may only be used on adult pigs and cattle that refuse to walk, but then there must be room to walk through. The shocks should only be on the rear of the pigs and the shock should not last longer than a second. If the pig does not respond, the shocks must not be administered repeatedly, according to European regulation.

More drivers use cattle prods

The undercover photos are from 2019, but new drone photos from this autumn show that the same company from Gelderland still uses electric shock devices a lot. Other transport companies have also been followed by Varkens in Nood. At two other companies, we see on drone images that drivers very regularly use electric shock devices to drive the pigs into the truck.

Transport company Gelderland does not want to respond to the content of the images. They await the results of the NVWA investigation. The two other transport companies, with which the use of the electroshock device is recorded, have also been asked for a comment, but have not responded.

‘Ban beef jerky’

“Terrible pictures”, is how the industry association Vee & Logistiek describes the undercover pictures of the company from Gelderland. “I strongly distance myself from that,” says chairman Helma Lodders. “This carrier is constantly busy with the cattle drive and the cattle drive is not intended for that”. She calls it an excess and says it is not daily practice in the livestock transport sector.

The animal rights organization Varkens i Nood advocates a ban on electric shock devices for cattle. “It is completely unnecessary to use it, it is quite counterproductive,” says director Frederieke Schouten of Varken i Nood. “Those animals get stressed and they go in all directions and you hear them panicking”.

The NVWA says talks are underway but it is up to politicians to ban the electric shock device.

A little supervision

There is hardly any supervision of the loading of pigs on the farm. There are no cameras and no NVWA vets present, such as at abattoirs. Violations for the use of the stun gun have only been found once in the last four years and NVWA has issued a written warning to this effect.

The undercover footage also shows piglets being lifted by their ears and pigs being kicked and punched. And a lame pig that still goes against the rules on transport. These unique images show that the farmer and transporter know it is not allowed, but they believe there is little chance of an NVWA vet finding out. It has always been suspected that this would happen, but now the farmer and the transporter are being caught red-handed.

In response, the owner of the farm says that the pig with the painful leg should not have been taken like that. “Animal welfare is paramount to us. The farm worker shown on the screen no longer works there”. The owner of the farm will also talk to the transport company.

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