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Evaluating the prevalence of tail biting and carcase condemnations in slaughter pigs in the Republic and Northern Ireland, and the potential of abattoir meat inspection as a welfare surveillance tool
  1. S. Harley1,
  3. N. E. O'Connell, BAgrSc, MSc, PhD3,
  4. A. Hanlon, BSc, MSc, PhD4,
  5. D. Teixeira, BAgrSc, MSc, PhD5 and
  6. L. Boyle, M.Agr.Sc., PhD6
  1. 1Wellcome Trust Research Scholar at UCD School of Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland
  2. 2UCD Centre for Epidemiology and Risk Analysis, UCD School of Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland
  3. 3Medical Biology Centre, School of Biological Sciences, Queens University Belfast, 97 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 7BL, Northern Ireland
  4. 4UCD, School of Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland
  5. 5Teagasc Pig Development Department, Animal & Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Moorepark,
    Fermoy, Co. Cork, Ireland
  6. 6Animal & Grassland Research & Innovation Centre, Moorepark, Fermoy, Co. Cork, Ireland;
  1. Correspondence to: Sarah Harley, e-mail: xp0u800c{at}


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.

  • Surveillance
  • Pigs
  • Tail biting
  • animal welfare
  • Abattoir meat inspection
  • carcass condemnation
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