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Report criticises EU pig production methods

A report by animal welfare organisations has pointed its finger at pig production in several European countries, claiming that the vast majority of farms there do not meet EU laws regarding the provision of enrichment materials and tail docking.

The survey on pig farms, set up by the organisation Compassion in World Faming and the European Coalition for Farm Animals (ECFA), is a result of an undercover investigation and a 2007 report by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

The report focuses on EU animal welfare legislation from 2003, in which was stated that enrichment materials need to be provided to pigs; and in which tail docking is banned as a routine practice.

The investigation's findings – including a film – were launched yesterday in Brussels, Belgium.

EFSA report
In their press release, the organisations write that "in December 2007 the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published a report showing that – despite the ban on routine tail docking – over 90% of EU pigs were still being tail docked."

In addition, the organisations reminded that the EFSA report concluded that of the pigs "67% are housed in fully slatted systems where it is almost impossible to provide effective enrichment materials."

Going undercover
Both animal welfare organisations went undercover to find out if the new rules were working. During an 18 month undercover investigation starting in 2008 they visited 74 pig farms in six EU member states: Denmark, Hungary, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and the UK. 

In their press release, the organisations say that the EU laws were being 'flouted in the vast majority of the farms we visited'. Spain scored worst, the Netherlands came second.

The press release continues to say that, "Despite the new laws, most of Europe's pigs are still farmed industrially in conditions of utter deprivation. They are packed into overcrowded, barren pens without straw or any other enrichment materials. Nearly all are tail docked."

Based on the investigation and the EFSA report, the organisations have made formal complaints for failure to enforce EU law to the European Commission against Belgium, Ireland, Spain, Germany, Hungary and Denmark.

Dutch pig industry
The Dutch pig industry has indicated not to be happy with the organisation's report. "It feels like they suggest we are hiding something," chairwoman Annechien ten Have of the Dutch Agri- and Horticultural Organisation (LTO) told the Dutch agricultural newspaper Agrarisch Dagblad. In total, nine Dutch farms were visited.

According to Ten Have, the Dutch pig industry never showed any inclination to be hiding anything. "I am hurt that they are now presenting undercover images as if we are being furtive."

She said she spoke about taildocking at a meeting in Brussels last November – and she confirms pig farmers do dock tails. "If they don't do that, the damage will be larger. We are working on a solution, but it is not available directly."

Chairman Wyno Zwanenburg, of the Dutch trade union of pig producers (NVV) said the report is biased – since the taildocking and the enrichment material guidelines are easy to check. "We also check whether there is straw bedding on the floors, as a chain or a car tyre is simply not sufficient. And no controls have been made on exemptions for tail docking."

Belgian pig industry
Belgian pig farms were not included in the research, but Belgian animal welfare organisation Gaia claims in Belgium the situation could be similar. Hence this country was included in the formal complaint.

Related websites:
Dutch Agri- & Horticultural Organisation (LTO; in Dutch)
Compassion in World Faming
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)
Dutch trade union of pig producers (NVV; in Dutch)
Agrarisch Dagblad (in Dutch)


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    Ina Müller

    I'm realy wondering about that representativ study .... . How many pig farmers are in the european countries? 450.000? And 74 are representative? In German every year 15.000 farmes are controlled ....
    Kind regards

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    Ina Müller

    I'm wondering according to the report about secretly (!) made contoll on 74 pig enterprises in six European Union countries. In exactly these six European Union countries it gave to this time altogether 490,520 pig owners. 74 are realy not representative. Allone 15,984 pig enterprises became up by the quality control system the last year in Germany. Adherence to the animal protection editions examines. Of it were 95.1% without lack. Contrary to the introduction in the contribution the picture are not likely on the photos the animal protection group shows. There are at least two great errors: no one slaughtering pig in Europe is held in Crates or single box. Secondly the photo shows a Crates for sows, which can entered or left by the sow itself. So I could point still further lack out in the representation of the animal protection organization, but there isn't enough place.
    whether that is so correct everything! It is a mystery for me, why a respectable internet portal like Pig Progress, grants area for a publication of such dubious messages.

    Kind regards


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    Vincent ter Beek

    Dear Ms Müller,

    Thank you for your reply. I can understand that some news items may arise more comments than others. Still, I think there are some good reasons to publish it. I would like to emphasise that Pig Progress reporting on it does not mean the website agrees with the outcome of the research - and the way the article is written supports that. We have simply transmitted the research's conclusions - for your and everyone's information. Secondly, as soon as respectable pig organisations in Europe decide to respond to the research, I think there is plenty of reason to report on it. Even stronger, ignoring it would mean denying our readers access to discussion and debate.
    Vincent ter Beek,
    Editor, Pig Progress and <>

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