Important pig welfare update from Europe

In a move welcomed by MEPs, the European Commission has presented a new Recommendation on the protection of pigs, specifically focusing on the need to reduce tail docking.

Routine tail docking – a painful procedure in which part of a pig’s tail is removed in order to reduce the risk of tail biting – has been banned in the EU since 1994 but investigations by the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) and Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) suggest that at least 80% of pigs in the EU have been tail docked. Tail biting is an abnormal behaviour, seen as a response to boredom, insufficient stimulation and other negative environmental factors.

Alyn Smith MEP, Scotland’s sole voice on the Parliament’s Agriculture Committee, said:

“Pigs are remarkably intelligent, sensitive animals, and it’s a crying shame to see them being kept in conditions with no enrichment materials for them to investigate and play with.

“While this Recommendation is not legally binding, it provides vital practical information for farmers to use, such as providing enough enrichment materials such as hay, straw, or wood sawdust for all the pigs. 

“Many of the checks are fairly obvious – if the pigs are fighting to use the enrichment materials, for example – but this shows the seriousness with which the Commission continues to treat the issue.

“Scotland’s farmers already prioritise animal wellbeing, and I know many of these recommendations will be old news to them. However, we now need to see the rest of the EU reach our standards of farm animal welfare.”