EU Commission warns lagging states over pig welfare

The European Commission has today (Monday) increased pressure on those countries still flouting rules governing the welfare of pregnant sows.

France, Cyprus, Greece and Belgium will face the European Court of Justice if they continue to flout rules governing the use of sow stalls.

The countries singled out now have two months to satisfy the Commission of their efforts to comply with the EU rules.

The rules (which came into force on 1 January 2013, 12 years after the initial agreement) apply to all holdings with at least 10 sows, and state that sows must be kept in groups during part of their pregnancy. The change allows the animals more space to move and for natural behaviour such as foraging.

The European Commission issued a preliminary warning on 21 February 2013 to nine countries (Fr, D, Ire, Bel, Cyp, Dk, Gre, Pol & Port). DG SANCO officials said they were continuing to assess levels of compliance among the remaining five countries warned last February.

Alyn Smith, SNP member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee, said:

"Infringement proceedings are the most substantial tool in the Commission's box and it is right that these countries still breaking the rules are now facing court action.

"I am disappointed, however, that we have taken over a year to reach this point. We have seen examples of long phase-in periods systematically exploited in order to pinch as much from the penny as possible, and so I think we need to reassess how we measure ongoing progress towards full compliance if we wish to avoid these situations from reoccurring in the future. Our farmers should not be punished for other countries' tardiness."