Category Archives: Policy

Soundbites Pig Welfare Conference: 2. Presentations

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.

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

The Welfare Challenges Facing The Pig Sector
Peter Stevenson, Chief Policy Advisor of Compassion in World Farming, UK
Interview (video):
We have created a society where farmers’ margins are so low that they often have no choice but to have very low welfare (P. Stevenson)
We need to find a way in which we can make moving to higher welfare economically viable (P. Stevenson)
Presentation:
The EU should protect farmers from low welfare imports (P. Stevenson)
Most pigs in EU are given no enrichment or ineffective objects such as chains. … Plastic chewing sticks & balls are not effective enrichment (P. Stevenson)
An intact curly tail may well be the single most important animal-based welfare indicator in finishing pigs (EFSA update 2011, cited by P. Stevenson).
The average benefit of raising uncastrated pigs is around €5 per pig due to better feed conversion (EC, 2013, cited by P. Stevenson)
Consumers can drive animal welfare improvements – Don’t keep them in the dark (P. Stevenson).

Could Animal Production Become a Profession?
David Fraser, Professor, University of British Columbia, Canada
Interview (video):
Could pig producers function more like professionals and less like an industry? Professionals set their own standards. (D. Fraser)
Presentation:
The best common people are the agricultural population, so that it is possible to introduce democracy as well as other forms of constitution where the multitide lives by agriculture or by pasturing cattle. Aristotle, “Politics” (cited by D. Fraser).
In the past half century, animal agriculture in the U.S. has been taken over by corporations, turning family farms into factory farms (Farm Sanctuary, 2009, cited by D. Fraser).
Farm animal health levels: Piglet deaths: 0-50%; bursitis: 0-83%; sow mortality: 0-20%; dairy cow lameness 0-85%; broiler lameness: 0-90% (D. Fraser).
Animal welfare reforms have been modeled on worker welfare legislation that regulated the physical environment and exposure time in factories (D. Fraser).
Shifting animal production toward a professional model is a more promising approach to improving animal welfare and maintaining public trust in animal producers (D. Fraser).

Assessment and Alleviation of Pain in Pig Production
Sandra Edwards, Professor, Newcastle University, UK

Sandra Edwards
Sandra Edwards, Professor, Newcastle University, UK

Interview (video):
We need a very strong ethical justification for continuing farm-management procedures which are painful to animals, and look very actively for ways to reduce their necessity (S. Edwards)
Presentation:
Is castration necessary? Not all countries now think so (Backus et al., 2014), but sometimes it may be (S. Edwards)
What links castration, tail docking and gastric ulcers in pigs? Pain (S. Edwards)
Tail docking: Historically (and often currently): A surgical procedure carried out on young piglets with no pain relief (S. Edwards)
Does Tail docking Cause Pain? Many farmers believe not (or only insignificant) (S. Edwards)
30% of finishing pigs and 50% of culled sows have gastric sulcers (score >6). Gastric ulcers are acutely painful in humans. (S. Edwards)
Conclusion: The occurrence of pain compromises animal welfare
– It must be actively addressed.
– “Suppress, Substitute, Soothe”
(S. Edwards)
A reliable method for on-farm pain assessment is needed (S. Edwards)

Neonatal Piglet Mortality in Relation to Sow Farrowing Environment
Lene Juul Pedersen, Senior Researcher, Aarhus University, DK

Lene Juul Pedersen
Lene Juul Pedersen, Senior Researcher, Aarhus University, DK

Interview (video):
Genetic selection for increased littersize in Danish pig production has resulted in problems with piglet mortality that need to be solved, either by changing the breeding goal (to heavier piglets) and/or intensified piglet care (L.J. Pedersen).

Increased piglet mortality is not an innate problem of farrowing pens where sows can freely more around (L.J. Pedersen).
Presentation:
Piglets are born in a thermally insufficient environment (L.J. Pedersen).

Animal welfare in organic pig production
Jan Tind Sørensen, Professor, Aarhus University, DK
Interview (video):
Organic pig production does well on naturalness, welfare perception and low antibiotics use, but needs to solve problems with piglet mortality, endoparasites and castration (J.T. Sørensen).
Scientists cannot solve animal welfare. Politicians either. We need to collaborate to improve pig welfare (J.T. Sørensen).
Presentation:
Lameness prevalense in organic sow herds is higher during summer (Knage-Rasmussen et al 2014, cited by J.T. Sørensen).
High piglet mortality in organic pig production (Sørensen & Pedersen 2013, cited by J.T. Sørensen)
Organic pigs may be more resistant to Salmonella infections
(Bonde & Sørensen 2012, cited by J.T. Sørensen)

The Intelligent Pig Barn
Anders Ringgaard Kristensen, Professor, University of Copenhagen, DK
Interview (video):
Sensor technology is one of the ways forward in pig production (A.R. Kirstensen)
Presentation:
The intelligent pig barn – PigIT – Welfare problems considered: diarrhea, fouling and tail biting (A.R. Kirstensen).

The Danish Pig Welfare Action Plan
Per Henriksen, CVO, Danish Veterinary and Food Administration, DK

The use of animal welfare indicators
Jeremy Marchant-Forde, Research Animal Scientist, USDA-ARS, USA
Interview (video):
Scientists in the EU interact more with policymakers, while the US has closer links with producers (J. Marchant-Forde)
Presentation:
From 2005 to 2050 the global demand for meat will raise: poultry from 82 to 181M tonnes, beef from 64 to 106M, and pork from 100M to 143M tonnes (43%) (J. Marchant-Forde).

The Danish Animal Welfare Index Project
Björn Forkman, Professor, University of Copenhagen, DK
Interview (video):
The Danish Animal Welfare Index is animal-based, compares welfare across years and is based on a definition of welfare in terms of feelings (B. Forkman)
The Danish pig welfare conference showed an astonishing interest in pig welfare (B. Forkman).
Presentation:
“Happy pigs are dirty” (B. Forkman)

Ethical Meat Production & Consumer Response
Athanasios Krystallis Krontalis, Professor, Aarhus University, DK
Interview (video):
What people believe, sometimes is irrevant to the way they behave (A.K. Krontalis)

The social desirability effect implies that we tend to stay on the safe side, hiding what we really believe about something and simply reproducing stereotypes. So people have difficulty saying I don’t care about animal welfare (A.K. Krontalis).
It will take a lot of effort to reveal the real opinions of people generally [regarding animal welfare] (A.K. Krontalis).
Presentation:
29.149 food products launched with the claim “ethical” on their description (top-10 categories, all European countries) (Mintel Gnpd, Apr. 2013 cited by A.K. Krontalis).
Around 4,000 new food product launches with the term “Animal welfare” in their description. Mintel Gnpd, Apr. 2013 (cited by A.K. Krontalis).
People with weak attitudes to pig production eat somewhat more pork (A.K. Krontalis).
Not eating pork at all is not related to being critical to pork production (A.K. Krontalis).
consumers seek more information about production methods to make informed choices (Harper & Henson, 2001, cited by A.K. Krontalis)
In a EU survey (2005) consumers stated they are very rarely or never able to identify meat products from sustainable production methods (cited by A.K. Krontalis)
Ethical meat can be achieved by:
* Optimization of current production (consumer-driven)
and/or
* Development of new (technology-driven) production (i.e. in-vitro or insect-based), with questionable social acceptance potential (A.K. Krontalis).

Good welfare is good business
Jeremy Cooper, CEO, Freedom Food and Kate Parkes, Senior Scientific Officer, RSPCA, UK
Good welfare is good business (J. Cooper, CEO Freedom Food)
Freedom Food: > 3.5k members, 1 billion terrestrial farm animals, > 2k labelled products, almost 1/3 of UK pigs, 50% of UK eggs, > 70% of Scottish salmon (J. Cooper)

The effects of stockperson education and training on farm animal welfare
Paul Hemsworth, Professor, University of Melbourne, Australia
Attitudes tend to direct our behaviour or, at least, our intended behaviour (P. Hemsworth).
The best way to predict how stockpeople will interact with their animals is by knowing what their attitude is toward the activity itself (P. Hemsworth).
To target ‘stockmanship’ both technical and behavioural training of stockpeople are necessary! (P. Hemsworth).

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).

Soundbites Pig Welfare Conference: 4. Posters

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

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

Do increasing amounts of straw increase growing pigs’ oral manipulation of straw?
Margit Bak Jensen, Mette S. Herskin, Björn Forkman, Lene J. Pedersen
Pigs were provided with various amounts of unchopped straw (10-500 gr/pig/day) to determine the amount of straw where additional provision did not further increase pigs’ exploratory behaviour.
Increasing the straw amount from 10 to 360 g straw per pig per day increased the time pigs spent in oral manipulation of straw markedly, while increasing the straw amount above 430 g straw per pig per day had no additional effect .
Approximately 400 g long straw per pig per day maximizes straw‐directed behaviour in partly slatted concrete floor (0.7 m2/pig)

Providing various amounts of straw (10-500 gr/pig/day) showed that oral manipulation of straw increases steadily up to 360 g straw/p/d. (M. Bak-Jensen et al.)

Increasing amounts of straw increase growing pigs’ production and healthLene J. Pedersen, Mette S. Herskin, Björn Forkman, Henrik Elvang Jensen, Margit B. Jensen
Aim: To quantify the amount of straw needed to achieve health and production effects, we investigated the effect of straw amount on the prevalence of gastric ulcers and production parameters.
Animals & housing: In both experiments pigs were housed in groups of 18 per pen, with partly slatted concrete floor (0.7 m2/pig) and fed a commercial dry feed for ad libitum intake.
Conclusion: The average daily gain (ADG) increased by 8±17 g/day for every extra 100 g straw added daily (P<0.001) resulting in 42 g higher ADG at 500 compared to 10 g straw provided. The feed conversion ratio was not affected by amounts of straw. The proportion of pigs with ulcerations was reduced by permanent access to straw (7 vs. 33%; P<0.05). Based on these results, production and health parameters were improved by increasing amounts of straw to pigs kept in conventional pens.

More straw improves production (ADG) and health (ulceration) parameters of pigs significantly (L.J. Pedersen et al.)

Tail biters may have a relatively high innate immune status (Ursinus et al.)

Straw provided to growing/finishing pigs resulted in a lower prevalence of tail lesions at slaughter (Dippel et al.)
The SchwIP management tool for tail biting in fattening pigs: a comprehensive approach for a complex problem (Dippel et al.)
Farm specific reports with causal explanations facilitate farmer engagement and knowledge transfer (Dippel et al.)

Tail lesions on carcasses of Irish slaughter pigs in relation to producer association with advisory services
N. van Staaveren, D. L. Teixeira, A. Hanlon and L. A. Boyle
The high prevalence of moderate tail lesions in a large proportion of batches of slaughter pigs suggests that chronic tail manipulation is a widespread problem. The large variation between batches indicates that there is good scope for improvement in the housing and management of pigs to reduce this behaviour on Irish farms. Given the economic and welfare implications of even moderate tail lesions it would benefit producers to receive information from the factory on such lesions recorded during meat inspection. This could help inform farm management plans and enable intervention before the behaviour escalates into tail biting.
The high prevalence of moderate tail lesions in a large proportion of batches of IE slaughter pigs suggests that chronic tail manipulation is a widespread problem (Van Staaveren et al.).
The large variation in tail biting between batches indicates that there is good scope for improvement in the housing and management of pigs to reduce this behaviour.
It would benefit pig producers to receive information about tail lesions recorded during meat inspection. This could help inform farm management and enable intervention before the behaviour escalates into tail biting (Van Staaveren et al.).

Experiences with Intact Tails in Well-Managed Conventional Herds
H.P. Lahrmann, T. Jensen, E. Damsted
Even in well-managed herds in average one out of two pigs is at risk of getting a tail lesion between 7-85 kg (Lahrmann et al., pilot study in DK).

Straw Use and Prevention of Tail Biting in Undocked Pigs – a Survey of Housing and Management Routines in Swedish Pig Farms
Stefan Gunnarsson, Beth Young and Rebecka Westin
The Swedish farmers reported limited problems with tail biting in finishing pigs. In nurseries tail biting was rarely observed.
Straw was provided to the pigs more or less daily.
Distribution of straw caused no problems with the manure system in 58% of the nurseries and in 81% of the finishing units (Gunnarsson et al.).

The Effect of an Enriched Environment on Biting Behavior and Performance of Finishing Pigs with Intact Tails
A. Bulens, S. Van Beirendonck, J. Van Thielen, N. Buys, B. Driessen
Pigs performed better in pens enriched with hanging toy, straw blocks and hiding wall: pigs had higher body weight at 90 kg and at 120kg, and showed less frustration and less tail manipulation. (Bulens et al.)

Curly Tails: the Dutch Approach
Marion Kluivers, Carola van der Peet, Anita Hoofs, Nienke Dirx, Nanda Ursinus, Liesbeth Bolhuis, Geert van der Peet
Dutch Curly Tails project aims at closing the gap between science and practice, and relieving the anxiety and scepticism about keeping pigs with long tails in current systems.
During the first year researchers and animal caretakers developed a mutual understanding that enabled putting scientific knowledge into practice (Kluivers et al.)
Costs and labour of keeping pigs with intact tails should not be underestimated (Kluivers et al.)
Biting behaviour can already start in the farrowing unit (Kluivers et al.)
Coaching, creating trust, transferring knowledge are essential in the process towards keeping pigs with long intact tails (Kluivers et al.)

How to solve a conflict without getting into a fight? Space for conflict resolution should not be regarded as an unnecessary luxury (Camerlink et al.)

Soundbites Pig Welfare Conference: 5. Interviews with legislators

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.

Below are ‘soundbites’ from video-interviews with legislators attending the conference, all more or less related to the subjects of study in the FareWellDock project.

A pig is an intelligent animal. It is a sentient being. Therefore, it needs to be treated with respect (Dan Jørgensen, Danish Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries)

Finding solutions in how we can produce pigs in a competive manner, but at the same time improve the animal welfare, is an extremely important task (D. Jørgensen)

Ministers Dijksma (NL) and Jørgensen (DK)
To the left: Sharon Dijksma, Minister for Agriculture, NL. To the right: Dan Jørgensen, Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, DK

Sharon Dijksma, Minister for Agriculture, The Netherlands – “Towards Sustainable Pig Farming – The Dutch Way

Dutch pigs are top quality animals: they are healthy, fertile and, if I may say so, good to eat (S. Dijksma)

Pig welfare is playing a growing role in where the Dutch pig industry is at present (S. Dijksma).

The Dutch care deeply about animal welfare. Animals have intrinsic value, i.e. value in itself, independent of people (S. Dijksma).

We are happy other countries share our conviction. Together we will be more succesful convincing the agricultural sector worldwide to put the welfare of animals first (S. Dijksma).

We must respect the animals’ physical integrity. … Physical integrity also means letting pigs keep their tails (S. Dijksma).

I call on the sector to make every effort to prevent tail biting as much as possible…. My aim is a complete ban on tail docking (S. Dijksma).

Animal welfare also means animals must be able to exhibit their natural behaviour. Pigs investigate their environment by rooting and biting. (S. Dijksma)

When we eat meat it is good to know that the animals from which our meat derives have had a pleasant life (S. Dijksma)

I’m convinced that nothing beats the taste of pork chops of a pig that really lived well (S. Dijksma)

It is wrong to put farmers in the bank of the accused ones (Christian Schmidt, Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, Germany – “Minding Animals – Ways to Improve Animal Welfare“)

Sven-Erik Bucht, Minister for Rural Affairs, Sweden – “High Animal Welfare – A Winning Concept for Future Pig Production

We are what we eat (S.-E. Bucht)

[In EU pig production] We must focus on quality, and quality means animal welfare (S.-E. Bucht)

Good animal welfare is not about the health and well-being of our pigs. It is also about our own health, and of our children, and of our grandchildren (S.-E. Bucht)

About truely good food, we all have a lot to learn (S.-E. Bucht)

More and more the European consumer calls for animal-friendly products (Denis Simonin, Policy officer on animal welfare at European Commission)

The EU strategy for the protection and welfare of animals (2012-2015) was focused on the enforcement of the EU rules (D. Simonin)

Almost 2/3 of member states are fully compliant with welfare regulations on group housing of sows
(D. Simonin)

[In the European Commission] Work is still ongoing on the development of guidelines aiming to achieve better implementation of the use of manipulable materials (D. Simonin)

EU reference centers for animal welfare to support the enforcement of animal welfare standards
(D. Simonin)

Problems with the treatment of pigs are among the most important problems to be improved as regards animal welfare (Janusz Wojciechowski, MEP and Vice-chairman in the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development)

Pigs are very intelligent and very sensitive (J. Wojciechowski)

Esp. European pig farming is increasingly industrialised. Thousands of pigs in one place is not good for animal welfare standards (J. Wojciechowski)

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

Reducing tail docking in the Netherlands

On April 4, 2014 the Dutch Secretary State of Economic Affairs, Sharon Dijksma, reported to the Dutch parliament the following on the issues of tail docking and tail biting in pigs:
Firstly, research has been commissioned on tail biting and tail docking in pigs (2013-2017).
Secondly, steps have been taken to reduce tail docking in practice (Van Dekken, 28286, nr. 666).
The House of Parliament has asked the government to negotiate an end date for tail docking together with the stakeholders who signed the Declaration Dalfsen.
Since early 2013 the European Commission is working on a plan to address routine docking of piglets at the European level. In parallel, the Dutch pig sector organisations LTO and NVV, and the Dutch Society for the Protection of Animal together drafted and signed the Declaration of Dalfsen, which was presented on June 10, 2013. The Declaration focuses on the prevention of biting , the gradual reduction of short tail docking, leading finally to the responsible ending of the practice of tail docking . It is a process in which partners have expressed trust in each other. These are important steps in the right direction. The Animal Welfare policy note states that the declaration is endorsed and supported by the funding of research. In about two years this research is likely to provide insight if and which promising solutions exist. At that point in time more will be known about the progress made at the European level. At that time the Secretary of State and the partners of the declaration will determine a realistic deadline to responsibly stop the tail docking of pigs.
Finally, as to the strict compliance of the EC Directive on pig welfare in Europe (Ouwehand, TK 21501-32, nr. 750): The House of Parliament has asked the government insist that the European Commission will move towards strict enforcement of animal welfare guidelines and reports on compliance in the Member States. This is related to signs of non-compliance of the Directive by several Member States and more specifically in the areas of tail docking and the routing filing of canine teeth.
With a view to improving the implementation and enforcement of the Directive lying down minimum standards for the protection of pigs (2008/120/EC), the Commission – partly based on the Dutch request – started the development of guidelines supplementing the Directive, including a guideline on tail docking. These guidelines (which are expected to be completed this year) are expected to improve enforcement and compliance.

Pig on arm
Piglet on arm