Pig Welfare

Pig Welfare


Europe is considered a world leader in terms of farm animal welfare legislation. However, implementation and enforcement by Member States remain problematic, and have been identified by the European Commission as key challenges. Legislation is further undermined by a series of species-specific derogations.

For pigs in the EU, the combination of poor enforcement and the use of derogations mean that painful mutilations of piglets continue on a routine basis, mostly without pain relief, and this without scientific justification.


Working group


To address these concerns, the Intergroup has created an ad-hoc working group, headed by the Intergroup Vice-President Jeppe Kofod (S&D, DK) and including representatives from several other political groups.

The aim of this group is to work out concerted actions to improve pig welfare in the EU by promoting the uptake of best practices into legislation and by pushing for better enforcement of existing legislation.


Piglet castration

Male pigs are surgically castrated to prevent the risk of boar taint, an unpleasant odour which can be detected – although very infrequently – when pig meat is cooked.  Castration is also used to minimise mounting behaviours.

Surgical castration of piglets can still be lawfully performed in the EU, without anaesthesia and analgesia, if carried out within the seventh day of life. However, surgical castration is very painful when practiced without anesthesia and prolonged analgesia.  More humane alternatives exist and they should be used instead.

In 2010 a voluntary agreement to phase out surgical castration in the EU by 2018 was signed by 33 stakeholders, under the patronage of the Belgian presidency of the Council and of the European Commission. This initiative was called “European Declaration on Alternatives to the surgical castration of pigs” (Brussels Declaration). It is by now clear that this voluntary Declaration will not deliver its desired outcomes and therefore a more incisive approach is needed.


Routine tail docking, tooth clipping and the provision of adequate enrichment materials to all pigs

Tail biting is a multifactorial behaviour that can originate from many factors. The provision of materials that pigs can investigate is very important, as tail biting mainly occurs when pigs are poorly managed in intensive systems with no enrichment. Other factors are poor health, high stocking density, inadequate feeding, and bad climate conditions in the stable.

To address the important prerequisite of availability of materials to investigate, the Pigs Directive (2008/120/EC) explicitly states that “pigs must have permanent access to a sufficient quantity of material to enable proper investigation and manipulation activities, such as straw, hay, wood, sawdust, mushroom compost, peat or a mixture of such”. Farmers must address inadequate environmental conditions and management systems before tail docking and tooth clipping can be carried out.

Not enough has been done to ensure adequate environmental enrichment, or to adapt pig management, in order to avoid these mutilations. Additionally, enforcement of this law has been poor.

The European Commission’s Recommendation and Staff Working Document on best practices for the prevention of routine tail docking of pigs and on the provision of appropriate enrichment materials were adopted in March 2016. In 2017, Directorate F will carry out an action plan to obtain compliance with those specific provisions of the Pigs Directive.

The Intergroup working group on pig welfare and its members fully support the European Commission’s action plan to obtain a harmonised implementation of the Pigs Directive concerning the provision of adequate environmental enrichment to all pigs and the ban on routine mutilations. We will closely monitor this action plan and its outcomes until full implementation of the Directive.


The working group Members :

Chair: Jeppe Kofod – MEP (S&D, DK)

Vice-Chair: Frederick Federley – MEP (ALDE, SE)

Members: Fabio Massimo Castaldo – MEP (EFD², IT)

   Jytte Guteland – MEP (S&D, SE)

          Anja Hazekamp – MEP (GUE/NGL, NL)

       Keith Taylor – MEP (Greens/EFA, UK)

Project leader: Elena Nalon, Intergroup secretariat


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