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Health and Consumer Protection

Press releases

Luxembourg, 19 June 2001

Major improvement of welfare of pigs agreed - Classical swine fever directive updated: Feeding catering waste prohibited

The Council reached agreement on two proposed directives on the welfare for pigs and on the eradication of classical swine fever. David Byrne thanked the Swedish Presidency for ensuring adoption of measures to protect the welfare of pigs in record time and of updated control measures on classical swine fever.

Welfare of Pigs

The Council adopted a Directive amending current legislative rules on the protection of pigs. The new rules remedy the main welfare problems identified in a science-based Commission report on intensive pig farming. They will prohibit the confinement of pregnant pigs to individual stalls and tethering of sows and gilts. The Directive also sets rules to improve the living environment of pigs and piglets, such as a minimum size of sow pens, and requires permanent access to rooting materials and fibre food. The European Parliament, consulted on the text of this Council Directive, has urged the Commission to continue its efforts to address outstanding issues in intensive pig farming in the near future, once further studies are available.

Commenting on the proposal, David Byrne, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, said: "The adoption of today's measures on the welfare of pigs demonstrates that politicians in the European Union now share the political will to act on scientific evidence to better protect animals in intensive farming systems. Citizens and consumers nowadays expect proper care of animals, and policy makers and the farming community must respond to that. These new measures give the pig meat industry an opportunity to improve its public image by ensuring their rapid implementation. The Swedish Presidency has been a driving force behind the adoption of these measures in a record time of less than six months, and I am grateful for their effort. I am also particularly pleased that my initiatives for moving ahead on animal welfare issues are finding such wide support, in the national capitals and in the European Parliament."

Classical swine fever

A Council directive on the control of classical swine fever (CSF) was adopted today. It consolidates existing rules and adapts them to new scientific insights and progress, and to experience gained in recent years with CSF outbreaks in areas with a high density of pigs. The Directive – applicable from July 2002 onwards – prohibits feeding of catering waste to pigs. The new rules continue the non-vaccination policy based on the culling of all pigs in farms infected with CSF, but foresee a possible wider use in future of vaccination in emergencies through the use of marker vaccines. Marker vaccines will, once appropriate test methods have been developed and approved, allow to distinguish vaccinated pigs from pigs that are actually infected. Their use will need to be authorised by the Commission on a case-by-case basis and be subject to strict evaluation and control. Specific decisions on trade restrictions to apply to farms that have used the marker vaccines will also need to be taken on a case by case basis. The Directive further refines and reinforces existing control measures, for example by extending notification obligations and provisions on CSF diagnosis.

David Byrne, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, commented: "We have learned from the recent foot-and-mouth disease episode how important it is to find ways to limit the damage that highly contagious animal diseases can do. Past episodes of classical swine fever have also proven to be very costly, both for the Community budget and in terms of economic losses to pig farmers. In addition the culling of high numbers of animals is ethically questionable. I therefore place high hopes in a combination of higher hygienic standards in the pig sector, in the proper implementation of all disease control measures and in the potential of marker vaccines in dealing with emergencies. Today's legislation sends a clear signal to those involved in the research to develop the tests that can distinguish vaccinated from infected animals to speed up their efforts. The urgency of such progress is underlined by the new outbreak of CSF in Spain. However, the slaughter and destruction of infected and suspected pigs remains for the moment the most effective disease control strategy available."

Released on 20/06/2001


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