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 page for their scientific opinions on the welfare aspects of pig farming.

Alternatives to surgical castration of pigs - see our dedicated page

COMMISSION RECOMMENDATION (EU) 2016/336 of 8 March 2016 on the application of Council Directive 2008/120/EC laying down minimum standards for the protection of pigs as regards measures to reduce the need for tail-docking
STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT on best practices with a view to the prevention of routine tail-docking and the provision of enrichment materials to pigs [SWD(2016)49 final] Following the adoption of the Commission Recommendation (EU) 2016/336 as regards measures to reduce the need for tail-docking, the staff working document provides useful tools to a harmonised understanding on how the provision of manipulable material and avoidance of tail-docking can be practically achieved.