The welfare of pigs is assured by Council Directive 2008/120/EC.

It applies to all categories of pig and lays down minimum standards for their protection:

  • Improving the quality of the flooring surfaces

  • Increasing the living space available for sows and gilts

  • Introducing higher level of training and competence on welfare issues for personnel

  • Setting requirements for light and maximum noise levels

  • Providing permanent access to fresh water and to materials for rooting and playing

  • Setting a minimum weaning age of four weeks

In particular with effect from 1st January 2013, pregnant sows must be kept in groups instead of individual stalls during part of their pregnancy - a major improvement for the welfare of sows in the EU. Indeed apart from some exceptions (farrowing sows and boars) all pigs are to be raised in groups and must be provided with permanent access to drinking water and food of appropriate quality at regular intervals. They must also have permanent access to a sufficient quantity of enrichment materials that does not compromise their health and enables them to carry out proper investigation and manipulation activities and fulfil their behavioural needs.

For full details please refer to the directive.

Please refer to the EFSA website for their scientific opinions on the welfare aspects of pig farming.

Preventing tail docking

Routine tail docking is forbidden, the Commission has developed several activities to prevent routine tail docking.

Alternatives to surgical castration of pigs

Surgical castration, practiced for centuries to remove an unpleasant odour from pork known as 'boar taint' and prevent undesirable sexual and aggressive behaviour in pigs, has become a significant animal welfare concern in recent years. Research has proven that this surgical procedure inflicts pain, even on very young pigs.