European pig farming shame

26 August 2014

Spain Pigs Wall Street Journal

Tail docked pigs in barren pen. ‘Spain's Pig Farmers Raise Stink Over Subsidy Cuts’, Wall Street Journal, 18.04.2014

Illegal pig farming in the EU is now so rife that the industry’s publications are packed with photos of farms clearly in breach of the law.

We have created a dossier of these photos which show pigs being kept in illegal conditions and are calling on the European Commissioner in charge of farm animal welfare, Tonio Borg, to act.

Our Chief Policy Advisor, Peter Stevenson, says: “It is ironic that the poster boys for the industry, who are being held up as examples of how to farm, would seem to be doing so in a way that is illegal under EU law. If this is what the industry aspires to then it is in seriously bad shape.”

What does the law say?

EU law says that pigs must be given enrichment materials such as straw, hay, wood, sawdust or peat to root and forage in. Pigs are intelligent and inquisitive animals who need a stimulating environment in order to prevent them from being bored. Without these materials they can start biting the tails of other pigs. To stop them doing this, some farmers cut off the end of pig’s tails.

EU law says farmers are only allowed to cut off pigs tails if they have first tried to prevent tail biting by improving the conditions the pigs are kept in.

Our dossier cataloguing photos from pig industry magazines and websites in France, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the UK suggests this is often not the case.

Peter adds: “Since 2003 EU law has banned routine tail docking and required pigs to be given enrichment materials. However, most pig farmers simply refuse to obey the law.  The EU pig industry is out of control, behaving as if it is above the law. 

“The Commission is preparing guidelines on enrichment and tail docking. However, as most pig farmers ignore the law, what hope is there that they will respect mere guidelines? We call on the Commission to start proceedings at the European Court against Member States who refuse to enforce the law.”

UK pig industry responds

The UK pig industry publication Pig World is not happy with us showing their images which we say show pigs in illegal conditions and threatened legal action unless we removed them. We have had to remove these images.

The dossier complements Compassion’s own investigations into EU pig farming, which have revealed widespread breaches of EU law.

Take action

The routine docking of pigs’ tails and housing of pigs in barren environments are still widespread.

Email the European Commission and urge them to ensure that the law is fully implemented, with every Member State taking their responsibilities seriously.


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