Older-age pig farmers in Belgium would prefer to stop rather than comply with the new EU rules enforcing the ban on sow gestation crates, the Belgian daily newspaper De Standaard reports.
The newspaper quotes Erik Mijten, board member of the Flemish farmers union Boerenbond. He suspects that the prohibitive cost of altering the stalls to comply with EU dictates will force older farmers to quit their farms and smaller farms to be swallowed up by bigger ones. He added that other farms are likely to shift their focus onto producing growers and finishers.
As of January 2013, gestating sows have to be kept in group housing conditions in the European Union; in addition, they have to have 2.25 m2 available to them.
In a survey conducted by the Flemish Government a year ago, only 40% of the sow farms have made the transition over to group housing. Of the remaining farms that had not made the conversion, a third to a half of that group of sow farmers reported prepared, ready and willing to quit, if possible.
The vast majority of pigs in Belgium is kept in Flanders, the Dutch speaking northern half of the bilingual country. The average Belgian pig farmer is older than 55, an age in which one does not undertake investments that could run up to a million euros. There are about 6,000 pig farmers in Flanders, half of which keep sows.