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Talk pushes alternatives to cuts and crates for pigs

News Section Icon Published 05/06/2008

In a series of workshops for the European Pig Producers Congress 2008, Phil Brooke, Welfare Development Manager for Compassion in World Farming argues that pig farming needs to move away from 'cuts and crates.'

Pig in straw

Cuts and Crates:

  • Cuts - mutilations such as castration, tail docking and tooth clipping
  • Crates - close confinement systems, such as the sow stall and farrowing crate

In Europe, routine tail-docking, carried out to prevent tail-biting, is banned. The legislation states that farmers must take measures "to prevent tail-biting taking into account environment and stocking densities" before resorting to tail-docking.

Despite the ban, it remains common practice for pig farmers to dock piglets' tails. According to Compassion in World Farming's recent supermarkets report, an estimated 88% or more of the pigmeat sold by all of the supermarkets surveyed still comes from pigs that have been tail-docked.

Furthermore, although the sow stall is to be phased-out in the European Union by 2013 ( except for the first four weeks of pregnancy), thousands of sows are being kept in confined conditions in the meantime.

Compassion in World Farming believes that pigs should live in enriched environments, free from cuts and crates, where:

  • bedding with straw or similar materials is provided
  • pigs have space to forage and move around
  • sows have access to their piglets

Considerable progress has already been made. In Britain, the sow stall was banned in 1999, castration is very rarely practised and a third of British pigs are born outside.

Already some supermarkets such as Waitrose are demanding higher welfare. In advance of the workshops, Phil Brooke said:

"If the European pig industry can put animal welfare first, pig farmers will be well placed to take advantage of the higher welfare marketplace of the future.

"A move to higher welfare systems would be good for farmers as well as for pigs. Farmers should be paid a fair price for a fair product."

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