EU regulations for the welfare of intensively reared pigs

by 5m Editor
1 June 2001, at 12:00am

This article summarises a communication from the European Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on the welfare of intensively kept pigs in particularly taking into account the welfare of sows reared in varying degrees of confinement and in groups.

This information is taken from EC Council amending Directive 91/630/EEC laying down minimum standards for the protection of pigs.

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The protection of pigs is a matter of Community competence. Council Directive 91/630/EEC lays down minimum standards for the protection of pigs. Based on Article 6 of this Directive the Commission is requested to submit a report to the Council by 1 October 1997, drawn up on the basis of an opinion from the Scientific Veterinary Committee, on the intensive pig-rearing system(s) which comply with the welfare requirements of pigs from the pathological, zootechnical, physiological and behavioural points of view and on the socio-economic implications of the different systems. The report shall particularly take into account the welfare of sows reared in varying degrees of confinement and in groups and shall be accompanied by appropriate proposals which take account of the conclusions of the report.

The Scientific Veterinary Committee on Animal Welfare (SCAHAW) of the Directorate General Health and Consumer Protection has adopted an opinion on the "Welfare of intensively kept pigs" the 30th September 1997.

The outcome of the above mentioned opinion highlight the necessity to take actions for the improvement of the welfare conditions of pigs and in particular to avoid in the future the use of individual stalls for pregnant sows.

Information is available to the Commission confirming that during the last years five Member States have adopted legislation for the protection of pigs providing additional requirements than Council Directive 91/630/EEC, in particular banning the individual stalls for pregnant sows and providing for improved flooring surfaces and separate areas for the performing of the different behaviours of the animals.

On the basis of the above mentioned elements the Commission has elaborated a report to be presented to the Council accompanied by appropriate proposals (see Article 6 of the Directive).

The aim of the Commission proposal is to amend current legislation in line with new scientific evidences and the experience acquired in this field by Member States.

The proposal for a Council Directive to amend Directive 91/630/EEC, based on the provision of Article 6, aims to:
  • Ban the use the individual stalls for pregnant sows and gilts and the use of tethers;
  • Increase the living space available for sows and gilts;
  • Allow the sows and the gilts to have permanent access to materials for rooting;
  • Introduce higher level of training and competence on welfare issues for the stockmen and the personnel in charge of the animals;
  • Request new scientific advice in relation to certain issues of pig farming.
The present proposals will put in place an EU-wide framework of acceptable welfare standards for pigs. To allow the industry time to adjust to these higher standards, provision is made for the phased introduction of the measures. Once the measures are in place, the pigmeat industry can produce and market its product in a manner which is acceptable to the vast majority of the public, thus strengthening its image. Labelling requirements to highlight this and to provide consumer information can be considered in due course when the measures are fully in place.

Animal protection is a central issue in relation to the development of future farming policies in the EU to bring public image together with efficient farming systems. Adaptations in plant size, in labour inputs and in communication policy as well as a strong emphasis of a broad participation on benefits of production plans will be of help for that process.

Source: COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE COUNCIL AND THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT on the welfare of intensively kept pigs in particularly taking into account the welfare of sows reared in varying degrees of confinement and in groups. - June 2001
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