Piggies go to market in a transport of delight

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The Independent Online


Air conditioning to cool the nerves, bags of space to snuffle around, regular water sprinkling and personal service from the cabin crew. What more could a pig ask for on its journey to the slaughterhouse?

The Swedes believe they have found the answer that will meet the concerns of animal welfare groups who are demanding an end to the pain and suffering of livestock transported on long journeys across continental Europe.

A Swedish-designed "slaughter and livestock truck" can carry up to 100 pigs or 16 cattle in five-star luxury.

A video-link enables the driver to monitor his charges' welfare. A sprinkler system ensures the pigs can be cooled when the going gets hot. Air suspension on every axle guarantees a bump-free ride.

The only question is: Who pays? A single vehicle (fitted with polystyrene sound insulation and rubber matting under hoof) costs pounds 125,000. Too much, snort other Europeans. The Swedes reply: "A happy pig is a tasty pig" - making the trucks cost effective.

Swedish tests show that if the beast is under stress its juices dry up, producing meat which is tough and dry instead of soft and succulent.

"If the animal is not happy the meat will be bad and nobody will buy it. But if the animal is treated well the juices will continue to run," says Bengt Gustafsson of Scan, the Swedish truck manufacturer.

The problem of transporting live animals for slaughter has been placed high on the European agenda by the growing protests from animal rights lobbies who demand an eight-hour maximum journey time. The groups complain that animals are crammed into primitive trucks for up to 60 hours.