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Pigs in Europe still suffering says Compassion

News Section Icon Published 19/11/2009

Urgently needed enforcement of EU laws on pig welfare received welcome attention at a recent European Commission workshop following calls on this issue from Compassion in World Farming.

Compassion in World Farming was pleased to participate in the workshop on pig welfare organised by the European Commission, with our own Peter Stevenson giving a presentation on why the current welfare rules must be enforced.

Whilst Compassion congratulates the Commission for addressing the issue, the truth is that many requirements of the EU Pig Directive are still being blatantly ignored in most EU countries. And we are continuing to call on the Commission to take urgent action on enforcing key requirements of the EU Pigs Directive.

Compassion's own investigations earlier in 2009, revealed how pigs continue to suffer in Europe's pig farms.

Most farmers ignore the requirement to provide straw or some similar enrichment material so that the pigs can perform their natural behaviours. Most also breach the ban on routine tail docking. If these laws were observed, we would see an end to the factory farming of pigs that is the norm for the vast majority of the 250 million pigs reared each year in the EU. Compassion in World Farming is committed to securing compliance with these laws.

Compassion in World Farming congratulates DG Sanco for kick-starting a much needed process to improve compliance with vital legal requirements for Europe's pigs. Furthermore, we welcome the Commission's wish to take this work forward with key stakeholders. Compassion has indicated its willingness to move forward so that pig welfare is fully protected under the existing laws.

The special workshop was organised by the European Commission's Directorate General for Health and Consumers (DG Sanco) on 17 November in Brussels. The 'Pig Welfare' workshop brought together the pig industry, representatives of the European Member States and animal welfare organisations to discuss case studies, good practices and challenges to the enforcement of European law for pig welfare.

Peter Stevenson, Chief Policy Advisor at Compassion in World Farming, comments: "DG Sanco has created a great opportunity for the industry, policy-makers and animal welfare specialists to come together and find ways to truly protect the welfare of pigs in Europe. The workshop focused on securing improved compliance with the requirement in the EU Pigs Directive that pigs must be given straw, or some other enrichment material, so that they can engage in their natural behaviour, and on the Directive's prohibition on routine tail docking. The workshop also looked at how farmers are going to comply with the EU ban on sow stalls that comes into force on 1 January 2013."

The EU Pigs Directive provisions on enrichment materials and tail docking came into force in 2003, yet many countries fail to comply with the basic rules set out to protect the welfare of farmed pigs across Europe.

Our recent investigation in The Netherlands, Spain, Hungary, Germany and the UK recorded a high rate of poor animal welfare:

  • Routine tail docking on up to 100 per cent of farms visited - prohibited by EU law
  • Widespread lack of environmental enrichment - prohibited by EU law
  • Continued use of farrowing crates, metal cages confining mothering sows
  • Continued use of sow stalls, cages for pregnant sows, across Europe (except UK who banned sows stalls in 1999) despite the looming 2013 ban

The workshop in Brussels was therefore a key occasion for Compassion in World Farming to show the incontrovertible scientific evidence that pigs need to be able to express their natural behaviour or their welfare will be compromised.

Rooting, foraging and exploring are fundamental parts of a pig's life. If pigs are not provided with an adequately enriched environment they can turn to each other's tails. That is why too many farmers rely on tail docking. At the workshop, Compassion demonstrated with scientific evidence that if you keep pigs in good conditions there is no need for painful mutilations such as tail docking.

Whilst there was an encouraging response to our contribution to the workshop, Compassion will continue to push for much improved compliance with the Directive.

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