EU - Ministers from Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden have signed a request for a review of the EU Pig Directive, with an aim to improve pig welfare.
A joint statement from the ministers at the first International Pig Welfare Conference in Copenhagen outlined their priorities for change, such as improved housing conditions, reducing tail docking, and stopping surgical castration of piglets without anaesthesia.
Other areas for improvement included moving towards more free farrowing and group housing for sows, increasing minimum space allowance, provision of enrichment for fattening pigs, and the move away from fully slatted floors.
Germany's agriculture minister Christian Schmidt stressed the importance of a common, coordinated animal welfare strategy for Europe.
"If we want to achieve more animal welfare, we must ensure our policy does not stop at national borders, because our markets are closely connected together in the livestock industry by flows of goods," he said.
Mr Schmidt saw expansion of animal welfare as bringing a competitive advantage to EU products, saying: "It is clear: livestock production in Germany, like in the Netherlands and Denmark, is a key pillar of agriculture, and it should stay that way.
"With fairly funded and science-based action, we can find innovative solutions to further improve livestock farming.
"Our joint aim is to achieve real improvements for animals within a manageable time-frame, without losing sight of the economic viability of livestock production."
"We will use the chance of animal welfare improvements in Europe to expand our brand's competition in international markets."
Reineke Hameleers, Director of Eurogroup for Animals, said the ministerial request: "Shows the commitment of four EU member states to make a difference and to put pressure on the European Commission to act and address the issues as quickly as possible.”
“As an animal welfare organisation we hoped that the Ministers would have been more ambitious and that their request would cover more of our concerns, particularly in calling for an end to the surgical castration of piglets as soon as possible.
"However, we call on this Ministerial coalition to be bold and urge the European Commission and other Member States to commit themselves and develop an implementation plan.
“In addition, Eurogroup hopes to see concrete measures in the short term on the part of the four signatories, who can and should now lead the way in their own countries, where they can have a major impact on pig welfare,” she concluded.
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