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Perception of animal welfare issues during Chinese transport and slaughter of livestock by a sample of stakeholders in the industry

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China is the world’s biggest livestock producer, and has a rapidly expanding intensive livestock production in response to growing demand. The large size of the country and geographical dispersion of the livestock production systems means that animals are often transported long distances to slaughter. This study investigated perceptions of animal welfare issues by stakeholders in the Chinese transport and slaughter industry using utility scores and adaptive conjoint analysis. An initial workshop for experts in this field identified key concerns; these were then included in a questionnaire, which was distributed electronically to stakeholders. Stakeholders, particularly those with higher levels of education, were most concerned about the absence of pre-slaughter stunning and failure to maintain unconsciousness throughout the slaughter process. For all livestock species electrical stunning was considered the best method of stunning and blunt trauma the worst; for cattle and sheep stunning using a penetrating captive bolt was considered preferable to the use a percussive captive bolt. Other concerns considered very important were journey quality and livestock workers’ experience and attitudes. Heat stress and closed-sided vehicles were of greater concern than cold stress. Loading facilities and journey length were considered of intermediate importance, while lairage and methods for catching chickens were of least concern. The importance of some welfare concerns, e.g. livestock having to remain standing during a journey, was more commonly recognised by stakeholders who reported a high level of knowledge and experience. Therefore, these welfare issues could be a focus for future training activities. Compared to respondents directly involved in livestock transport, respondents involved in teaching and researching within livestock production rated the presented animal welfare issues as more important. These results can be used to guide development of training programmes, animal welfare research, and certification and regulatory control to target challenges to animal welfare in livestock transport and slaughter in China.
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