You too can influence EU pig welfare circa 2005

UK - The direction that pig welfare is taking in Europe is now clear...
calendar icon 7 April 2003
clock icon 6 minute read
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NPA is active on members' behalf in Brussels & White-hall, and with pro-cessors, supermarkets & caterers – fighting for the growth and pros-perity of the UK pig industry.

  • Straw (or equivalent) for all pigs, including for sows to nest in.
  • No totally-slatted accommodation.
  • Enhanced space allowances for growing pigs and finishers.
  • Natural light in new buildings.

Whilst there will be no attempt to legislate on these issues for several years, it is important that all NPA producers and allied trades download the document below, read it carefully and make their views known, either direct to Ann Petersson at at NPA, or to any Producer Group member.

The document in question is the Recommendation Concerning Pigs by the "Standing Committee of the European Convention for the Protection of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes".

It may well be used as a basis for changes in European law when the EC review the current EU pig welfare regulation in 2005.

Over the past three years NPA has found itself fighting bush fires caused by issues which had been determined before it came into existence. This is one of the first opportunities for the association to start lobbying early to prevent UK producers being burdened with more unsustainable cost.

It may be that this lobbying can be carried out in conjunction with producers on the continent, who have much to fear from a possible ban on totally-slatted systems.

Thus it is important that as many NPA members as possible read and comment on Recommendation Concerning Pigs (below) to ensure that NPA's welfare working group is aware of all the possible issues.

Defra have drawn attention to the following areas which go further than current legislation.

  • Article 11.2. Visual barriers within group pens which allow pigs to hide from aggressors should be provided at least during mixing.

  • Article 11.5. Solid floor should be used in the lying area.

  • Article 13. All pigs to have access at all times to adequate amounts of materials for investigation and manipulation, including rooting. Materials listed include straw, hay, maize chaff, grass, peat, earth, wood and bark.

  • Article 15.1. Provisions regarding ambient temperature, air velocity, relative humidity, dust level and other atmospheric conditions may require the use of water sprays.

  • Article 20.1. Natural light should be used in newly built or rebuilt facilities.

  • Article 24.3. Teeth clipping prohibited, although grinding is permitted in very limited circumstances.

  • Appendix II - Dry Sows. Measures to be taken to avoid excessive aggression include visual barriers to enable sows to escape or hide from aggressors.

  • Appendix III - Sows During the Perinatal Period and Sows/Piglets During the Suckling Period. Nesting material to be available in all holdings newly built or rebuilt. Loose housing system of sows during the perinatal and suckling periods to be aimed at.

  • Appendix IV - Pigs from Ten Weeks to Slaughter or Service. As a guideline, the total available area should not be less than 0.6m² for pigs weighing between 30 and 50 kg, and 1m² for pigs weighing between 85 and 110 kg.

Here are some issues NPA members may wish to consider when reading Recommendation Concerning Pigs..

  • "Materials for investigation and manipulation, including rooting".

Recommendation Concerning Pigs says "All pigs shall at all times have access to adequate amounts of materials for investigation and manipulation, including rooting, for example straw, hay, maize chaff, grass, peat, earth, wood and bark, in order to reduce the risk of behavioural disorders and injuries. The use of such materials shall not be harmful to the welfare, including health, of the pigs."

It is important that the Standing Committee (and Defra) recognise that the words in (my) italics include the harm to welfare that can be created when slats are rendered inoperable by straw etc.

  • "Any accommodation for pigs shall be kept so that the ambient temperature, the air velocity, the relative humidity, the dust level and other atmospheric conditions do not adversely affect the welfare, including the health, of the pigs; this may require the use of water sprays."

It is important that the Standing Committee make this requirement safe by recognising the difference between countries such as UK and Spain.

  • "Pigs shall be provided with a lying area which allow all the animals to rest simultaneously. Solid floor should be used in the lying area."

More detail is needed. This recommendation - particularly the word "should" - leaves the door open for considerable gold-plating and misunderstanding in due course by EC and/or Defra.

Recommendation Concerning Pigs is due to be voted on at the next meeting of the Standing Committee on June 17 - 19. NPA must give its detailed views to Defra by April 30 at the latest.

Whilst the recommendations will not be incorporated directly into UK law, Defra say they aim to reflect them in the national pig welfare code. Further, the recommendations are often used as a basis for Commission proposals for EU directives.

Defra say, "We have just issued a revised and updated Pig Welfare Code. Since the Code has just been revised, we are not planning on making any further changes to the Code until 2005 at the earliest, which is when the EU pig welfare Directive is next scheduled for review."

It has been suggested by one NPA welfare working group member that the EU Standing Committee should probably be regarded as hostile. "Much of what they propose would simply result in the export of European pig production to other parts of the world."

When reading the Recommendation Concerning Pigs, members may wish to pay particular attention to qualifications and consider whether they are (a) adequate and (b) sufficiently clear as to avoid future misunderstanding. For instance "mutilations" would be generally banned, but tooth grinding is allowed in the first seven days if necessary to prevent suffering.

Castration would be allowed, providing conditions were observed. As UK producers take pigs to heavier weights might this be an important issue for the future which producers should be considering now? All members' views welcome.

Please access the file now.
Recommendation concerning pigs by clicking the link.

Source: National Pig Association By Digby Scott - 7th April 2003

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