Today, we were not actually on the abattoir floor. We also had the fortune to start later. We began the morning in the anatomy wet lab where all sorts of specimens were laid out. While not required to, we divided into Team Bristol (including me) and Team RVC in order to identify the pathology associated with each specimen. Following that, we presented to Andy (described to me on the first day as the short, hobbit-like creature which is one of the most accurate descriptions possible) as a sort of competition of the two teams against Andy. The pathology of the specimens ranged from Cystercercus tenuicollis to pericarditis to pleuritis to kidney cysts to ingrown hairs on the tail of a pig. Perhaps the most interesting specimen was a Smokey (affectionately named Doris by Andy) which is a method of slaughter that is actually illegal in the UK due to the fact that it does not remove the hide of the animal. The animal is slaughtered and then smoked on the outside and inside. Since the smoking process dries out the skin, the meet actually keeps better than the “normal” does. However, as our discussion involved, since the smokey method breaks the law requiring removal of the hide, then it breaks many of the other laws as well including animal welfare laws, animal transport laws, removal of the spinal cord and CNS matter, slaughter of sheep over one year old, etc. It is performed on a secretive, black market basis with high premiums being charged on the carcasses that are sold under the counter. Wales has a particular problem with it. During the BSE outbreaks in the mid-1990s, it was a major public health concern. Farmers saw their animals not being able to be transported due to public health and slaughterhouse concerns, but they saw that they could actually make money by selling their animals to smokey processors. Therefore, while the animals were not supposed to be moved off their farms, they were in fact transported which made the BSE outbreak even worse. Wales is actually considering legalizing the practice since that is the only way to get rid of it since it would significantly reduce the lucrative nature of the business.
After the wet lab, we returned to the museum of specimens on above the abattoir for more lectures. We received lectures on animal welfare regulations specifically involving stunning. We were able to handling the electric tongs (used to electrically stun sheep and pigs) which are surprisingly heavy and also several different types of captive bolt guns. Afterwards, we looked at various jars of specimens. The specimens were mostly internal parasites of various types, but they also including lice. It was fascinating to see them so well preserved and in one place. Thus far, I believe that this was my favorite day because Andy and Grace are such good teachers. They are able to infuse such humor into their lectures and gain the confidence of the students without making us feel stupid. The very first day of this rotation, Andy gave one of the best vet school speeches that I have heard thus far. In it, he said, “We know that we know more about animal welfare than you do, but there is no reason to rub your noses in it so feel free to ask questions. Unlike some rotations, on this rotation, we truly believe that there is no stupid question except the one not asked.” For that reason alone, I would have thoroughly enjoyed this rotation. However, combining all of the experiences has made this rotation thus far a truly enjoyable and educational experience that I will highly recommend to other students.