Elena Nalon, Intergroup secretariat
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.
A combination of poor enforcement and the use of derogations mean that painful mutilations of piglets continues on a routine basis in the EU, mostly without pain relief, and without scientific justification. 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 seven days of life. However, surgical castration is very painful without anesthesia and prolonged analgesia, and more humane alternatives exist.
In 2010 a voluntary agreement to phase out surgical castration in the EU by 2018, the“European Declaration on Alternatives to the surgical castration of pigs” (Brussels Declaration), was signed by 33 stakeholders. It is by now clear that this voluntary Declaration will not deliver its desired outcomes and that a more incisive approach is needed.
Tail biting originates from many factors, but 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. 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.
To address the important prerequisite of providing materials that pigs can 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.
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 carried out an action plan to obtain compliance with those specific provisions of the Pigs Directive.
The aim of the Working 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.
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.
Fabio M. Castaldo