Assessment of the impact of animal welfare practices on pork safety and quality among growers from selected farms in Wakiso
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In Uganda, pig production has dramatically increased over the last three decades owing to the growing demand for pork, but with little attention to the welfare of pigs. The study hypothesis was that pig welfare practices have an association with safety and quality of pork harvested. The specific objectives of this study were to; to establish the status of pig welfare on pig farms in Wakiso district and to establish the relationship between quality and safety of pork and pig welfare from pigs whose welfare practices on farm have been assessed. Data on pig welfare practices was collected from 123 pigs on 45 farms in Wakiso district previously selected for the study and a published criterion was used to score pig welfare on the various farms. Blood and fecal samples were also collected from the pigs, placed in cool boxes and transported to Central Diagnostic Laboratory at COVAB in Makerere University for further analysis. The samples were subjected to different tests to determine leukocyte and erythrocyte parameters and any worms present. Data were analyzed by computing frequencies and percentages of the different parameters of blood and fecal samples from animals whose welfare was poor. Further analysis was done to determine the relationship between poor animal welfare and the blood and fecal indicators of pork safety and quality. The results showed that 83.7% (103/123) of the pigs had abnormal leukocyte parameters such as lymphocytosis, lymphopenia, neutrophilia and eosinophilia and 79.7% were under poor animal welfare. Erythrocyte results showed that 12.2% (15/123) pigs had abnormal parameters such as normocytic normochromic cells, polychromasia and anisocytosis and only 9% of those were under poor animal welfare. Fecal sample results revealed that 85.4% (105/123) of the pigs had coccidia oocysts and 84.8% of those were under poor animal welfare. There was a strong association between pig welfare and changes in leukocyte parameters such as lymphopenia and neutrophilic leukocytosis which are indicators of infection and stress in pigs that negatively impact overall pork safety and quality. These findings call for the need for the education of various stakeholders along the pork-value chain to improve on pig handling practices and overall welfare of the pigs because they are sentient beings and are capable of suffering pain, besides the resultant loss in quality and safety of pork harvested. Therefore, policy makers and other pig practitioners should consider these findings to change legislation on pig welfare and husbandry practices in Uganda.