Category Archives: Legal

Proper enrichment for intensively-farmed pigs – From review to preview

Bracke, M.B.M. 2016. Enrichment materials for intensively-farmed pigs – From review to preview (Conference abstract & presentation, ICPD 2016). In: Kemp, B. et al., 2016. 16th International Conference on Production Diseases in Farm Animals. June 20-23, 2016. Wageningen, NL. p. 179.

Abstract

Tail biting is a well-known production disease in intensively-farmed pigs raising concern for animal welfare, e.g. related to the practice of routine tail docking. To reduce tail biting pigs are provided with enrichment materials. EU legislation requires that pigs have permanent access to a sufficient quantity of material to enable proper investigation and manipulation activities. In order to meet this directive many pigs are provided with a metal chain with or without a rather indestructible object attached to the chain. The European commission recently revised current guidelines as to what constitutes adequate enrichment, apparently moving into the direction of the status-quo in welfare schemes. Building on extensive previous work at Wageningen UR Livestock Research, especially on the modelling of pig enrichment (the so-called RICHPIG model) a review is presented of our current state of knowledge. In addition, an outline is given as to how so-called AMI-sensors, measuring Animal-Material Interactions (AMI) (semi-)automatically, can be used to assess the pig’s need for enrichment, also in relation to aspects associated with health status, such as feed restriction, biting wounds and streptococcus infection. It is suggested that the use of chains with or without rather indestructible materials such as pipes, balls or (hard)wood is generally inadequate to enrich the pens of intensively-farmed pigs. An evolutionary mechanism appears to be underlying the causation of multifactorial welfare problems in general, the issues of enrichment, tail biting and tail docking in pigs in particular. In this respect ongoing selection for increased resource efficiency has been exerting a profound impact on livestock production. Various routes are explored as to how persistent welfare problems may be resolved, including a method that has been called Intelligent Natural Design (IND).

Branched chain
Two organic pigs interacting simultaneously with a branched chain in the snow. Despite access to a straw bed for rooting, even organic pigs may interact with such chains for long periods of time, esp. directed towards the floor. In fact they will root the chain on the floor more than twice as much as playing with it in a horizontal position. In intensive pig production chains are often (too) short, and when a hockey-type ball or ‘sustainable’ plastic pipe is attached to the end of such a chain the pigs’ interest, and their welfare, is often even reduced further. By contrast, to improve the chain further 7mm stainless-steel anchor chains may be recommended for growing pigs over the cheaper c-chain shown here, as anchor chains have heavier and more rounded shackles.

See also an older previous presentation on tail biting.

Bracke, M.B.M, Wolthuis, M., Zonderland, J. J., Kluivers, M., 2011. TAILS TO TELL – Tail docking, tail biting and enrichment for pigs – Experiences from the Netherlands. Herning, DK, May 25-26, 2011.

Tail docking in the EU: A case of routine violation of an EU Directive

Tail docking in the EU: A case of routine violation of an EU Directive
By Lerner, H and B. Algers. 2013. In book: The ethics of consumption, pp.374-378. Wageningen Academic Publishers. The Netherlands.

Abstract

The question of tail docking in pigs is an ongoing problem despite the fact that it should have been solved long ago. In the Council Directive 2008/120/EC it is clearly stated that routine tail docking in pigs are prohibited and enrichment materials for the pigs must be provided, which is in line with the high animal welfare standards that the European Union aim for. This directive is in force in all member states. The habit of tail docking is widespread as a simple comparison by two reports by EFSA shows. We present these results together with results showing that some countries, like Sweden, Finland and Lithuania manage to still keep their production without tail docking routinely. We therefore suggest that the gap between the strong intentions of prohibiting tail docking in the directive and the weak (or non-existent) enforcement of it in most countries in the EU needs to be closed. Of the arguments saying that this will be a troublesome task, we will here focus on two of them. The first is that the directive is unclear or actually allows tail docking. The second is that the habit of routine tail docking is economically profitable. Both these arguments will not hold. There are three ways to bridge the gap. The first is to lower the threshold, lowering the animal welfare level in the directive. We believe strongly that this solution is contradictory to the trend in today’s legislation about animals and not in line with the Lisbon treaty. The second is to demand stronger enforcement which is in line with the EU Strategy for the Protection and Welfare of Animals 2012-2015. The third is to accept that different countries will not enforce the directive, then leaving it to the consumer to choose between more or less animal friendly pork. EU seems to adopt this way in contrast to the EU AW Strategy. To properly inform consumers about animal welfare is a good help although it demands a lot of resources and is a rather slow process. Therefore, in order to have a rapid solution to the gap one need to have a stronger enforcement of the law.

European commission initiative to reduce tail docking and improve enrichment

March 2016 the European Commission takes another step to reduce tail docking and improve enrichment for pigs as part of its animal welfare strategy.

Here are some relevant phrases from the announcement made on the Commission’s website:

The welfare of pigs is assured by Council Directive 2008/120/EC.

It applies to all categories of pig and lays down minimum standards for their protection:

  • Providing permanent access to …. materials for rooting and playing

COMMISSION RECOMMENDATION (EU) 2016/336 of 8 March 2016 on the application of Council Directive 2008/120/EC laying down minimum standards for the protection of pigs as regards measures to reduce the need for tail-docking.

STAFF WORKING DOCUMENTpdf(706 kB) on best practices with a view to the prevention of routine tail-docking and the provision of enrichment materials to pigs [SWD(2016)49 final] Following the adoption of the Commission Recommendation (EU) 2016/336 as regards measures to reduce the need for tail-docking, the staff working document provides useful tools to a harmonised understanding on how the provision of manipulable material and avoidance of tail-docking can be practically achieved.

The working document recognises that proper enrichment is important to help prevent tail biting, and hence the need for tail docking.

Specified as unsafe are synthetic ropes, tyres, dry wood, dry sawdust, poorly stored straw, untreated peat/mushroom compost and dirty objects.

Furthermore proper enrichment should have one or more of the following qualities:

  • Edible or feed-like (to eat or smell)
  • Chewable (to bite)
  • Investigable (to root)
  • Manipulable (to change its location, appearance or
    structure)

Provision should be

  • of sustainable interest
  • accessible
  • of sufficient quantity
  • clean
MATERIALS OF MARGINAL INTEREST
Materials of marginal interest should not be used as essential or single component of pig
enrichment materials. They can provide distraction but should not be considered as
fulfiling the essential needs of the pigs. Other materials should also be provided.
Materials of marginal interest include objects, such as hard plastic piping or chains.
Marginal materials may supplement suboptimal materials like stones or strawdust briquette.

Soundbites Pig Welfare Conference: 1. Introduction

On 29 – 30 April 2015 Danish Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, Dan Jørgensen hosted an international conference “Improving Pig Welfare – what are the ways forward?“.

During the two-day conference, top academics, experts and political stakeholders from around the world debated and worked to prepare the way forward in improving pig welfare in Europe and ultimately in the world. Ministers from the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden participated.

Below you find ‘soundbites’ from the conference, all more or less related to the subjects of study in the FareWellDock project. This is part 1. Parts 2-5 are other blog posts on this website.

It is truly remarkable that we have been able to gather almost four hundred participants to discuss the ways forward for pig welfare; some are joining us from as far away as the state of Iowa, USA, and Australia
Dan Jørgensen, Danish Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries

fwd PWConf DK Minists IMG_1817c
Left to right: Dan Jørgensen, Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, DK. Sharon Dijksma, Minister for Agriculture, NL. Sven-Erik Bucht, Minister for Rural Affairs, SE. Christian Schmidt, Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, DE.

At the conference a position paper was signed by
Christian Schmidt, Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, DE
Sven-Erik Bucht, Minister for Rural Affairs, SE
Dan Jørgensen, Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, DK
Sharon Dijksma, Minister for Agriculture, NL

The position paper, final version(PDF)

Video of signing

Dan Jørgensen
Dan Jørgensen, Danish Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries

Soundbites Pig Welfare Conference: 3. Workshop

On 29 – 30 April 2015 Denmark hosted an international conference “Improving Pig Welfare – what are the ways forward?“.

During the two-day conference, top academics, experts and political stakeholders from around the world debated and worked to prepare the way forward in improving pig welfare in Europe and ultimately in the world. Ministers from the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden participated.

Below you find ‘soundbites’ from conference workshops, all more or less related to the subjects of study in the FareWellDock project.

Workshop 3: Tail docking of piglets

The workshop on tail docking of piglets at the Pig Welfare Conference in DK had a very interesting poll showing that 95 % of the participants believe that it is realistic to stop tail docking either immediately or within a 10 years period.

Suggested solutions and ways forward for pig welfare (from Workshop 3): Stopping tail docking immediately …and encouraging the farmer to think “out of the box”; sharing information regarding manipulative material.

Workshop presentations:

Torben Jensen, Chief Manager, SEGES, Danish Pig Research Centre:
Intact Tails – A Challenge!
To dock or not to dock – what is in the producer’s best interest? (T. Jensen)
THE UNDERLYING PROCESSES OF TAIL BITING: foraging activity and tail damage are central (T. Jensen, Slide 3)
ENRICHMENT materials’ relative effect at reducing tail biting (D’Eath et al. 2014): 500gr compost/d is better than 500gr straw, but the latter may be equivalent to 12.5-20gr/p/d (T. Jensen, Slide 4)
Standard Undocked may pay off for some farmers but it is a more risky choice and has inferior welfare to Standard Docked (T. Jensen)
Cessation of tail docking increases the incidence of tail biting even in well-managed herds (T. Jensen)
Tail lesions are more frequent in organic and free range production than in conventional production (T. Jensen)
By tail docking producers are acting in their own best interest (T. Jensen)
To compare welfare consequences of no docking at a farm level the number of tail bitten pigs must be considered (T. Jensen).

Workshop 5: Market driven animal welfare. The role for retailers and consumers

Hans Spoolder, Professor, Wageningen University:
EconWelfare: Upgrading Animal Welfare Standards Across Europe
We need transparent animal welfare labeling schemes (H. Spoolder)
EU wide legislation is important to set the lower boundaries for farm animal welfare, and it needs to be enforced (H. Spoolder).
The overall goal of animal welfare policy should be the same everywhere in the EU (H. Spoolder).

Saving the pig tail

Anna Valros and Mari Heinonen published a paper called “Save the pig tail” in Porcine Health Management.

Abstract

Tail biting is a common problem in modern pig production and has a negative impact on both animal welfare and economic result of the farm. Tail biting risk is increased by management and housing practices that fail to meet the basic needs of pigs. Tail docking is commonly used to reduce the risk of tail biting, but tail docking in itself is a welfare problem, as it causes pain to the pigs, and facilitates suboptimal production methods from a welfare point-of-view. When evaluating the cost and benefit of tail docking, it is important to consider negative impacts of both tail docking and tail biting. It is also essential to realize that even though 100% of the pigs are normally docked, only a minority will end up bitten, even in the worst case. In addition, data suggests that tail biting can be managed to an acceptable level even without tail docking, by correcting the production system to better meet the basic needs of the pigs.

Source
Valros, A., M. Heinonen, 2015. Save the pig tail. Porcine Health Management 2015 1:2.

EU compliance regarding enrichment and tail docking

This post is the abstract of a student report:

Edman, F. 2014. Do the Member States of the European Union comply with the legal requirements for pigs regarding manipulable material and tail docking? Student report 572, SLU, Skara, Sweden. Accessed 17-2-2015.

Abstract

Tail biting behaviour is a major animal welfare issue in intense pig production, as well as an economic issue. To prevent the behaviour, tail docking is practised. It is a painful procedure where a part of or the whole tail is cut off.

There is a lot of research on the subject of tail biting, with a big variety of solutions to prevent the behaviour. Scientists are consistent about that the absence of manipulable material increases the risk for tail biting. Manipulable material works as an environmental enrichment and stimulates natural behaviours of the pig, such as investigation and rooting. It helps pigs to cope with the environment and reduces stress and frustration, triggers that can lead to tail biting.

The legal requirement regarding tail docking state that it shall not be practised on a routine basis and has been in force since the 1st of January 1994. It was strengthened in 2003 and now appears in Council Directive 2008/120/EC which codifies the earlier directives. The legal requirement now states that measures to prevent tail biting shall be taken before practising tail docking, measures such as changing inadequate management systems, changed environment and reduced stock densities.

Pigs shall also have access to a suitable material or object, to be able to perform natural behaviours and prevent tail biting and stereotypies. In the latest version of the directive on pigs this material was defined as straw, hay, wood, sawdust, mushroom compost, peat or a mixture of such.

The aim of this study was to investigate the current situation of compliance with the legal requirements in the directive on pigs, regarding the provision of manipulable material and the routine practice of tail docking. It was also to investigate actions to increase compliance among the Member States in the European Union. A descriptive analysis of available FVO-reports was used, together with written answers from the Competent Authorities and a qualitative interview with people at the Commission and the FVO.

The results of this report showed that 18 out of 28 Member States in the European Union do not comply with the legal requirement regarding the provision of manipulable material, and that 17 of the Member States do not comply with the legal requirement regarding the practice of tail docking. There has not been any actions such as sanctions to increase the compliance among the Member States.

These findings make an overall conclusion possible about the current issues with the compliance of the directive on pigs. There are no further intrinsic actions to increase compliance, due to a lack of responsibility among the involved parties, such as pig farmers, Competent Authorities and the Commision. Due to the lack of intrinsic action, it is an impossibility to conclude when full compliance will be fulfilled.

Routine tail docking of pigs

This post presents the abstract and executive summary of the EU report:

Marzocchi, O. 2014.  Routine tail-docking of pigs. Policy Department C: Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs, European Parliament, European Union, Brussels, accessed 17-2-2015.

Abstract

Upon request of the PETI committee, the present study examines the issues raised in Petition 0336/2012, the legal framework on the protection of pigs, the level of implementation of the Directive on the protection of pigs in relation to tail-docking on the basis of the available information, the actions being carried out, or that could be carried out, to ensure proper implementation by Member States of the Directive requirements.
Docking a piglet's tail using cautery (hot iron)

Executive summary

The Committee on Petitions (PETI) examined on the 1st of April 2014 Petition 0336/2012 by C.R. (Danish citizen), on behalf of Dyrenes Beskyttelse (Danish Animal Welfare Society), concerning the routine tail-docking of piglets in Denmark1.

The petition raised the issue of the lack of implementation in Denmark, as well as in most EU Member States, of Council Directive 2008/120/EC laying down minimum standards for the protection of pigs, in relation to the rules governing the tail-docking of pigs.

The Commission recognised during the discussion that the implementation of the Directive in this regard is not satisfactory, but stated that it did not intend to launch infringement proceedings nor to propose amendments to the Directive, considering these actions as not appropriate. It stated instead that it preferred to rely on guidelines for Member States to ensure better implementation of the Directive, as well as on e-learning tools that are currently being developed. It also pointed to upcoming initiatives, such as framework legislation on animal welfare.

On the same day, PETI committee coordinators discussed the petition, the unsatisfactory implementation of the Directive, as well as the refusal by the Commission to launch infringement proceedings against non-compliant Member States. It was decided to request the Policy Department to analyse the issues discussed so to allow the committee to re-examine the matter during the new parliamentary term, including by potentially deciding to send a delegation to a number of Member States to investigate on the effective implementation of the Council Directive.

The present study addresses the PETI coordinators’ request to analyse the issues raised in the petition, the legal framework on the protection of pigs, the level of implementation of the Directive on the protection of pigs in relation to tail-docking on the basis of the available information, and the actions being carried out, or that could be carried out, to ensure proper implementation by Member States of the Directive requirements.

The study concludes that:

all the available evidence points at persisting high rates of non-compliance in the large majority of Member States in relation to the ban on routine tail-docking of pigs;

-Commission guidelines, training and e-learning tools, including on enrichment and manipulable materials, as well as a possible Framework Law on Animal Welfare, can be useful instruments to support farmers and Member States’ authorities in the implementation of the Directive; – at the same time, these could be accompanied by a stricter enforcement policy, notably since the Directive has been in force for more than 10 years (while the ban on routine tail-docking has been in force for more than 20 years); – the Commission could be bolder and prepared to launch infringement proceedings as an enforcement tool of last resort, as the mere prospect of serious action may prompt Member States to comply; – the Commission could also more systematically collect, monitor and publish information on the transposition of the Directive by Member States, as well as on their degree of compliance with the ban on routine tail-docking of pigs, including through inspections and specific requests to Member States.

Box 1: Tail-biting, tail-docking, routine tail-docking, enriching and manipulable material

Tail-biting, ie a pig biting another pigs’ tail, is an abnormal behaviour caused by several risk factors, notably by a poor or stressful environment frustrating the normal investigative behaviour of pigs (which are among the most intelligent and curious animals) in common intensive farming conditions. Tail-biting can result in infections, affecting the health and well-being of tail bitten pigs and can lead to tail-biting outbreaks.

Tail-docking is the practice of removing the tail or part of the tail of a pig, while routine tail-docking is the systematic docking of the tail of pigs, normally done in the early days of life, with the aim of avoiding the risk of tail-biting. It is done without anaesthesia, though it is a mutilation which is painful. Tail-docking can cause long-term chronic pain and infections, as well as redirection of the biting behaviour to other body parts, such as ears and legs.

Enriching and manipulable materials are materials such as straw, hay, wood, sawdust, mushroom compost and peat or a mixture of these, with which pigs can satisfy their explorative, playful and foraging behaviours. Studies have highlighted that the provision of such materials has a positive effect on pigs, reducing the risk of tailbiting.

Note: The opinions expressed in this document are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position of the European Parliament