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A pilot study to develop an assessment tool for sheep welfare after long journey transport

By S. Messori, E. Sossidou, M. Buonanno, B. Mounaix, S. Barnard, V. Vousdouka, P. dalla Villa, K. de Roest, H. Spoolder

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Sheep transport within Europe involves 9.5 million animals yearly, 63% of which travel over long journeys (>8 h). Livestock transport, particularly over long journeys, gives rise to concern about the welfare of transported animals. The European Commission stimulates the development of market-oriented animal welfare standards for all phases of livestock production, providing an alternative to the 'regulatory approach'. This study aimed to develop and test a new sheep welfare assessment protocol to be used following transport, irrespective of the journey purpose. The protocol included outcome (animal-based measures) and input variables (resource-based and management-based measures), being welfare-relevant aspects of both transport and unloading procedures. Weighted Cohen's Kappa and Fleiss' Kappa index of agreement were calculated to evaluate the raters accuracy and the inter-observer reliability. Overall, good agreement levels were found. The protocol was tested on 40 commercial transports arriving at previously selected assembly centres and slaughterhouses in Italy and Greece. The protocol was found to be feasible when applied to commercial transports, allowing for a comprehensive and quick sheep welfare assessment during unloading, without impairing stockman work. Univariate analysis was carried out to evaluate associations between outcome and input variables. In this study, significant association between outcome measures and risk factors were identified when associated to unloading procedures but not to travel conditions. In collaboration with the relevant stakeholders, this protocol might be developed into a tool for routine checks for certification purposes and could provide direct feedback to all professionals involved in animal transportation on the weaknesses and strengths of their work.

Publication Title Animal Welfare
Volume 24
Issue 4
Pages 407-416
ISBN/ISSN 0962-7286
DOI 10.7120/09627286.24.4.407
Language English
Author Address Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale dell'Abruzzo e del Molise 'G Caporale', Campo Boario, 64100 Teramo,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal production
  2. Animals
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Balkans
  5. Bovidae
  6. Certification
  7. Countries
  8. Developed countries
  9. Europe
  10. Feedback
  11. Greece
  12. Indicators
  13. Italy
  14. Livestock
  15. Livestock farming
  16. Mammals
  17. Mediterranean region
  18. OECD countries
  19. peer-reviewed
  20. risk factors
  21. Ruminants
  22. Sheep
  23. slaughterhouses
  24. stakeholders
  25. standards
  26. transportation
  27. ungulates
  28. vertebrates
  1. peer-reviewed