According to the UK Government’s Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC) report, FAWC favours movement in the pig industry towards well designed and operated free farrowing systems. Universal use of such systems should be the aim, but their commercial development is not yet sufficiently advanced to recommend compulsory replacement of farrowing crates.
The industry and other stakeholders should continue to explore ways to encourage up take of free farrowing systems. Early adopters may continue to encounter practical, financial and welfare challenges, so retailers and consumers may need to demonstrate willingness to pay for the potential benefits to sows and to piglets (for example, their increased interaction or increased requirement for supervision). When standards for such systems are set by retailers or labelling organisations, they should be soundly based, established in consultation with farmers, and stable for long enough that farmers can recoup investments.
FAWC recommends that, in considering which farrowing system to adopt or support, farmers, the pig industry as a whole and other stakeholders such as retailers should consider the welfare of both sows and piglets, and be aware that they are not necessarily benefitted by the same things.
The pig industry, government and research establishments should direct efforts towards optimising welfare and commercial performance of free farrowing systems in commercial settings.
October 2015/ FAWC/ United Kingdom.