Still too many pregnant cows in the slaughterhouse? An NGO and a parliamentarian want to know more

PAce of pregnant cow slaughter: Along with a small name and an opportunity for a breath of fresh air, this pledge is one of the ten essentials promised by Swissmilk, a showcase of the Association of Dairy Producers (PSL), on its website ). But according to animal rights activists, the number of pregnant cows slaughtered is still too high. A concern that prompted National Councilor Valentine Python yesterday to issue an interpellation entitled “What measures to prevent pregnant females from being sent to the slaughterhouse?” to submit.

Alarmed by the Coalition animaliste (COA), an NGO based in Nyon that “wants to contribute to the emergence of a society freed from animal exploitation”, the Verte vaudoise hopes to shed light on practices that are still too opaque in relation to the treatment of animals to throw animals. Pregnant cows are said to be calmer; in addition, fetal bovine serum is used for in vitro cell culture, but there is currently no data on whether this is the case in Switzerland.

Allowed but to be avoided

It should be noted that, as the doctor for climate and environmental sciences recalls in her interpellation, “the Animal Welfare Ordinance allows pregnant females (note: during pregnancy) to be transported to the slaughterhouse, regardless of the duration of the pregnancy.” And this, even if the Confederation and Proviande, the Swiss branch association of the meat industry, admit that, to use a more recent terminology of the Swiss meat industry, “the slaughter of pregnant animals must be avoided for ethical and animal welfare reasons.

Also read: Agriculture: Animal husbandry is doing well in Switzerland, says USP

Certainly the situation has changed in ten years. In 2012, a study by the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (OSAV) at the slaughterhouse in Oensingen (SO) showed that the practice was not uncommon: 5.67% of the pregnant cows slaughtered were five months pregnant. Or, according to estimates by the Animalist Coalition for the whole country, in the absence of official statistics, about 20,000 cows a year.

In the absence of nationwide instructions, Proviande finally took on this topic in 2016. The umbrella organization of meat producers has created a working group in which eleven stakeholders, including the FSVO, eight representatives of the meat industry and a single defense organization for animal rights, the Swiss Animal Welfare (PSA) are brought together. They are all committed “so that the slaughtering of pregnant heifers and cows can be reduced to a minimum with an industry solution that is viable for the entire value chain,” according to the regulations issued by the FSVO in 2017.

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According to figures released by Proviande in January, the recommendations have significantly reduced the slaughter rate of pregnant cattle to just 1.1%. That’s almost 4,000 cows a year.

Now that the business community has taken up the issue, one may wonder whether the magnitude of the problem is being underestimated.

Valentine Python, National Councilor

“These results show that the industry has made efforts, but the problem is far from resolved,” the Animalist Coalition said. For her part, Valentine Python points to a lack of transparency. “Once the industry has embraced the issue, one wonders if the scale of the problem isn’t being underestimated,” she continues. For the parliamentarian, “the legal entry of this ban and the transfer of responsibility to the FSVO would be a safeguard against the temptation to reduce the numbers”.

Also read: New rules for more animal welfare-friendly slaughter

In its study on the slaughter of pregnant cows from 2012, the BLV pointed out that special precautionary measures must be taken when transporting heavily pregnant cows. “If the transport primarily affects the mother, the slaughtering process itself raises an important animal welfare problem for the fetus,” the FSVO notes. However, when a pregnant cow comes to the slaughterhouse without a veterinary certificate, she is not spared.

Since 2020, these “unjustified slaughterings” have been subject to a levy, which was increased from CHF 100 to CHF 200 last February and is billed by the slaughterhouses for the additional work involved. If the scenario repeats itself with a breeder, he risks a call to order and a report to the Proviande arbitration board in favor of animal welfare, Proviande assures. Measures that would not have been fully proven.

Line Golestani

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