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Swedish Animal Welfare Laws at Risk

News Icon 16/04/2015

Speak to the farmers in any country and they will tell you they are the best in the world. They will say their farm animals enjoy the best standards of welfare.

If you hear this from a Swedish farmer, then take this seriously. Sweden has some of the best laws for farm animal welfare in the world and the very best in the EU.

Sweden was the first EU country to ban the sow stall. Since then, Britain has also banned this cruel confinement system. So has the EU, though not for the first four weeks of pregnancy.

Sweden has also banned the farrowing crate, so Swedish sows never routinely suffer close confinement.

Many painful mutilations are banned. Swedish hens are not beak-trimmed. Swedish pigs keep their tails on.

Swedish animals live in more enriched environments. Pigs must be provided with straw. So must cattle. Dairy cows must be allowed out to pasture during the summer months.

In short, Sweden leads the world in compassionate standards for keeping farm animals, but I have to report that much of this is at risk.

The farming industry is lobbying to repeal much of this legislation towards harmonisation with the rest of the EU. In short, they want to lower standards.

They claim that more piglets are dying. This is because they are using “modern” pig genetics which have led to sows producing larger litters than they can properly support.

Rather than moving towards sustainable genetics, the industry wishes to be able to use farrowing systems used in other countries which confine the sow. They have obtained a derogation from the law to test out such systems which confine the sow in farrowing crates. They also wish to be able to keep sows in stalls during insemination.

The dairy industry has become increasingly intensive. Rather than breeding cows which can sustain health on pasture, they wish to be able to keep them inside. Nearby Denmark has done this already. Fifteen years ago, 80% of Danish cows were allowed out to pasture. Today the vast majority never go outside.

Compassion in World Farming will be taking prompt action to campaign against these changes. Sweden should continue to lead the way – we must get the rest of the world to follow.


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