Despite extensive utilisation in epidemiological investigations of animal health, to date there has been little consideration of the value of abattoir meat inspection as a pig welfare surveillance tool. This study measured the prevalence of tail-docking, tail biting, carcase condemnations and associated financial losses of the latter (Northern Ireland only) in 36,963 pigs slaughtered in six abattoirs from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in July and August 2010. Over 99 per cent of inspected pigs had been tail-docked, while 58.1 per cent and 1.03 per cent had detectable and severe tail lesions, respectively. Producer losses resulting from carcase condemnation were estimated to be €0.37 per pig slaughtered. Enhanced capture and utilisation of meat inspection data for use in animal welfare surveillance schemes has the potential to drive improvements in production efficiency and animal welfare. However, significant differences were detected in the prevalence of carcase condemnation conditions between abattoirs and judiciaries (Republic and Northern Ireland). This reflects variation in the criteria and methods of data capture used in meat inspection in different abattoirs. Thus, the meat inspection process needs to be standardised and reformed before it can be reliably utilised in large-scale pig welfare surveillance schemes.
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