In 1999, the European Union Council Directive banned the conventional battery cage in the EU from 2012. In their 1996 report, the European Commission's Scientific Veterinary Committee (SVC) condemned the battery cage because of its small size and its barrenness. The battery cage had inherent severe disadvantages for the welfare of hens.
The EU Directive allows enriched or "furnished" cages to be used. Under the directive, enriched cages must be at least 45 cm high and must provide each hen with at least 750 cm² of space; 600 cm² of this must be "usable area", the other 150 cm² is for a nest-box. The cage must also contain litter, perches and "claw-shortening devices".
From 1 January 2013 all holdings must keep sows and gilts (young sow) in groups starting from four weeks post service to one week prior to farrowing, provide permanent access to manipulable material and sufficient quantity of bulky or high-fibre food as well as high-energy food.
The use of tethers for sows is banned since 1 January 2006.
All holdings should already comply with the general provisions for rearing pigs. In particular, attention should be paid to the following:
- Pigs should have permanent access to sufficient quantity of material to enable proper investigation and manipulation activities, such as straw, hay, wood, sawdust, mushroom compost, peat or a mixture of such, which does not compromise the health of the animals.
- Neither tail-docking nor reduction of corner teeth must be carried out routinely but only when there is evidence that injures to the sows’ teats or to other pigs’ ears or tails have occurred. Before carrying out these procedures, other measures shall be taken to prevent tail-biting and other vices, taking into account environment and stocking densities. For this reason, inadequate environmental conditions or management systems must be changed. SHOTLIST