Update on Pig Welfare Quality Programme

EU - Henri de Thoré gives an overview about the work on setting animal welfare standards in the EU Project Welfare Quality® for European Pig Producers.
calendar icon 25 March 2009
clock icon 3 minute read

The European Commission (EC) wants to upgrade the legislation on the welfare of animals and made a reform plan for the period 2006/2010.

For pigs, the issues are: slaughtering, transportation, floors and space, castration and pain, and labelling.

Until now, the legislation is based on standards and norms but the EC wants to add objective appreciation to this normative approach, as it was done with the directive on broilers.

The EC asked a European researcher consortium to build the 'welfare quality' programme whose the aim is to incorporate in its future proposal specific measurable animal based welfare indicators.

This programme takes several measures about four principles and twelve criteria:

  • Good feeding:
    • no prolonged hunger
    • no prolonged thirst
  • Good housing:
    • comfort around resting
    • thermal comfort
    • ease of movement
  • Good health:
    • no injuries
    • no diseases
    • no pain due to management procedures
  • Appropriate behaviour:
    • no general fear
    • social behaviour
    • natural behaviour, and
    • good human/animal relationship.

The EC imagines several scenarios for the use of the welfare quality assessment:

  • it should be used as a research tool to evaluate the welfare status of animals housed in various systems
  • it should define and score the minimum acceptable level of animal welfare, replacing minimum standards, implementing a regulation on compulsory labelling
  • it should be used as a scoring system in a voluntary assurance scheme and labelling, and
  • it should be used by the farmer himself as a self-assessment management tool for welfare problems and risks.

The outcomes of the welfare quality program are periodically presented to the Welfare Quality Advisory Council (WQ-AC) where there are scientists, vets, ONG members, professional organisation members and two farmers: Per-Ake Sahlberg, Swedish member of European dairy farmers' group, and Henri de Thoré from EPP, replacing Jan Daelemans. Those meetings provide some hot discussions.

The opinion of the farmers belonging to WQ-AC is, this objective approach of animal welfare could be a good way if it stops the emotional approach which upgrade continuously the standards: for instance, the authorised density of the broilers is now linked with the health level of the farm.

But the complexity of the system will demand too many scoring controllers and too much time to be implemented as it is now, and so it must be simplified.

And it does not avoid completely the discussion about higher standards.

Further Reading

- You can view the EU Fact Sheet, Marketing Farm Animal Welfare, by clicking here.
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