Report criticises EU pig production methods

22-01-2010 | |
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)

ter Beek
Vincent ter Beek Editor of Pig Progress / Topic: Pigs around the world