The GAAP works hard to ensure the health and welfare of all animals big and small. GAAP staff recently did an evaluation and assessment of a slaughter plant in Guatemala. It is important that we give animals the respect and caring they deserve up to the end of their lives and these assessments are imperative in keeping us accountable for their wellbeing. While there, we observed the process from unloading and handling to health and safety of both animals and workers. By monitoring the entire process at the slaughter plant we can better assess what areas need improvement or change.
The process of being transferred to a new facility is often a stressful event for cattle and upon arriving at this particular plant cattle were required to exit the truck down a very steep ramp. Stressed and confused cattle posed a risk to both the human handlers as well as themselves. After unloading, cattle were kept in a holding pen until needed which sometimes spanned 3-4 days often with no food or water. The handling of animals in a new and unfamiliar environment takes a slow and steady hand as well as care and patience. Handlers at the plant lacked the skills to gently move animals into the plant and appeared uneasy and scared of the cattle.
While the welfare of these creatures needs to be evaluated there is also the wellbeing of the humans working at the plant that must be considered. With a lack of knowledge, few tools and resources this made the process of cattle handling very dangerous. With such large animals safety is always a concern, and in fact, during our assessment there was a 5 year old in the building while the plant was operating.
There were also issues with processing, the plant had no refrigeration system for meat, and the meat was sold from the back of a pickup truck in town on market day. The slaughter plant also had challenges with their disposal of waste; often it was flushed directly into the creek. Free roaming dogs were found outside waiting for scraps; a perfect example of how one issue (waste disposal) can lead to others (human safety and public health).
With limited resources, capacity building and tools it is difficult for some facilities to maintain appropriate standards. Sometimes it takes outside eyes and expertise to assist governments in bringing their standards and practices for human and animal welfare up to where they should be. The GAAP can provide these risk assessments and capacity building to decrease food security threats. They can also help introduce best practices for animal handling and welfare for cattle. To support this and other GAAP projects, please go here, or to sponsor this project specifically please write to firstname.lastname@example.org