Just because a pig isn’t showing pain doesn’t mean it isn’t suffering.
Farmers, truckers and pig handlers need to look beyond obvious signs of distress to assess how an injured animal is doing, veterinarian Max Popp of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency told the Manitoba Swine Seminar.
“Animals are inclined to hide the pain as much as they can because they are a prey animal,” said Popp.
Some pigs with injuries as severe as a broken leg can appear to be feeling fine. Pigs evolved as herd animals in constant danger of being attacked by predators.
“It doesn’t want to be left behind so a predator comes and gets it.”
Popp said some pigs shouldn’t be loaded onto a truck in the first place.
Others that are injured during transport need to be dealt with before arriving at the slaughter plant. Immediate euthanasia might be necessary if injuries are bad enough, and the regulations require that the animals be taken to the nearest place where that can be done, such as a veterinary clinic in a town along the highway.
Truck travel is an unfamiliar and stressful event for pigs, so animals in poor health can become easily injured.
Weak pigs are particularly vulnerable, so truckers and farmers need to be careful in not overstressing those animals.
For instance, skinny pigs need more room than fat pigs because the weak pigs must lie down more than the full-sized ones.
“Be diligent when you load,” said Popp.
He had described himself as the “bad guy” and a “cop” during his presentation, but the hundreds of farmers, barn managers, barn staff and truckers in the audience showed no resistance to him or his message.
He faced no hostile questions and received a rousing round of applause when he was finished.