EUROPA > European Commission > DG Health and Consumer Protection  Contact | AZ-Index | Search | What's New? | Subscribe | Home 

de en fr

Health and Consumer Protection

Press releases

Brussels, 19 September 2000

David Byrne announces improvements in welfare conditions of pigs

"The conditions in which pigs are reared must be improved to reflect the need for higher levels of animal welfare", stated David Byrne, following a meeting with the Eurogroup for Animal Welfare. Announcing proposals to be presented to the Commission shortly, Mr Byrne said that he would be putting forward important improvements in the conditions in which pigs are being reared. At the meeting the Commissioner responsible for Health and Consumer Protection was presented with a report and video, prepared by the Eurogroup, on the welfare of pigs. The report reflects the strong public interest in the issue of animal welfare and the persistent calls on the European Commission to strengthen Community provisions in this area. Commissioner Byrne is proposing that this interest is reflected in concrete actions.

In 1991, the Council adopted a Directive 1 laying down minimum standards for the protection of pigs. The Commission is actively considering a number of significant improvements to the provisions of this directive. The existing main rules of the directive are:

- minimum surface requirements for different categories of pigs;

- a prohibition of the construction or conversion of installations in which sows and gilts are tethered;

- castration of male pigs aged over four weeks may be carried out only under anaesthetic by a veterinarian or a qualified person;

- a prohibition of routine tail docking and tooth clipping; if tooth clipping appears necessary, it must be carried out within seven days of birth;

- piglets must not be weaned from the sow at less than three weeks of age.

At the request of the Commission, the Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare adopted an opinion on "The Welfare of Intensively Kept Pigs" 2 . The outcome of this opinion highlights 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.

The Commission is now considering to bring current legislation in line with the scientific evidence and the experience acquired by Member States in the field of the protection of pigs.

The proposal is likely to consider the following aspects:

- rules for keeping sows in social groups;

- rules on separate areas for the performance of their normal behaviour patterns;

- a prohibition of the tethering of sows;

- rules to enrich the environment of pigs on the farm;

- improvement of the quality of flooring surfaces;

- a ban on the routine mutilation of pigs.

A photo of the meeting and TV pictures are available


1 Directive 91/630/EEC of 19 November 1991

2 This opinion can be consulted at the Internet site at the following address:


Press releases



  printable version  
Public HealthFood SafetyConsumer Affairs