Compassion in World Farming has been forced into the rare action of writing to the Presidents of the EU Agriculture Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament expressing dissatisfaction with continued breaches of the Pigs Directive by pig farmers as well as the failure of many EU Member States to enforce the law. The letter has been sent jointly by Compassion, Eurogroup for Animals, Humane Society International, Vier Pfoten and PROVIEH.
This is only the second time that Compassion has taken the decision to write to all three Presidents.
Compassion's recent investigations have exposed widespread breaches of the Pigs Directive. Compassion investigated pig farms in six countries: Italy, Spain, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Cyprus and Poland.
The Pigs Directive requires pigs to be given enrichment materials such as straw so that they can engage in their natural activities of investigating and manipulating their surroundings.
It also bans routine tail docking: in natural conditions pigs are highly active, spending 75% of their day rooting, foraging and exploring. Such activities are impossible for intensively farmed pigs. Bored and frustrated, they turn to the only other 'thing' in their bare pens: the tails of other pigs. They begin to chew and then bite those tails. To prevent tail biting, farmers dock part of the piglet's tail.
However, scientific research shows that the correct way to prevent tail biting is not to dock the tails but to keep the pigs in good conditions, above all to give them straw or some similar material to enable investigation behaviour. In recognition of this, the Directive has prohibited routine tail docking.
Shockingly, out of the 45 pig farms we visited, 44 were breaking the law on both tail docking and enrichment material. If these two aspects of the law were enforced pigs would have much improved welfare.
Peter Stevenson, Chief Policy Advisor at Compassion, says: "Our investigations have exposed one of the biggest welfare scandals in modern farming. The European pig sector is out of control behaving as if it's above the law.
"The EU needs to take urgent action to enforce the Directive thereby ensuring the welfare needs of the 250 million pigs that are reared in Europe each year are met."
Two thousand million pigs
2,000 million pigs would have enjoyed better welfare if the EU's pig sector had complied with the laws on enrichment and tail docking since they came into force in 2003.
It appears that at least 90% of EU pigs are tail docked. At least 80% of EU pigs are not given effective enrichment materials.
The EU rears 250 million pigs a year; that is 2,500 million since these laws came into force. At least 80% (probably more) have been routinely tail docked and reared without enrichment materials. 80% of 2,500 million is 2,000 million.
That is two thousand million pigs that have suffered unnecessarily due to the pig sector's refusal to respect the law and the Member States' failure to enforce it.