Around 100 farmers from the Limousin region are seeking funding to set up a slaughterhouse that prioritizes the animals’ welfare - by projecting images, sounds, and smells of the countryside into the room where they spend their final moments.
They hope to raise €100,000 over three months and, if successful, the abattoir will be built in Bourganeuf in the central Nouvelle-Aquitaine region. Animal welfare organizations including the AFAAD (Association for the Slaughter of Animals in Dignity) and researchers specializing in animal behaviour have helped with the project.
Cows would enter via a round corridor, a design chosen after extensive study as the least stressful. The slopes, textures, and lighting of the corridor have been carefully designed "to avoid imbalance and the risk of falling", the farmers say.
In the slaughter room, the animals would feel reassured by projections of images of local landscapes, and soothing sound effects.
Then, a robot would carry out the killing rather than humans, a move which aims to remove the possibility for human error.
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Unlike many abattoirs which see thousands of cows killed each week, often in cramped and unhygienic conditions, just seven animals would pass through the planned slaughterhouse each week.
As well as creating more humane conditions for the animals, the reduction of stress and careful treatment of the carcasses will lead to more tender meat with better conservation of vitamins, according to the farmers.
The farmers plan to use the small number of cows to supply quality meat for 600 families, through a subscription plan, as well as providing meat for local restaurants. A total of 30 families have already signed up, while others have left messages of support for the group on their fundraising website.
"Well done for this intelligent, innovative and courageous project," wrote one commenter. "I wish you great success and I hope that other regions will follow your example."
Over the past few years, several videos have surfaced revealing horrific and illegal conditions in some French abattoirs. In 2015, a large abattoir was shut down after footage showed workers failing to follow health and safety protocol and horses and cows writhing after being shot.
And in January this year, the French parliament voted to install CCTV in slaughterhouses across the country following yet another scandal, when an undercover video showed abattoir workers killing pregnant cows - and throwing their unborn calves in waste bins.