The Opinion assesses the need for mutilations in terms of the welfare costs and
benefits and the extent to which management or husbandry practices, including
environmental enrichment, might reduce the need for mutilations. Where mutilations
are necessary, the Opinion addresses how procedures can be refined, including the
possibility of providing pain relief.
- British pig farmers and Government should develop production systems in which mutilations are not necessary. Government should determine whether Pillar II support could be used in this regard.
- Farmers should (continue to) seek alternatives to mutilations. Surveillance is needed to help farmers to avoid the need for mutilations, e.g., by identifying risk factors.
- The food chain should support the efforts of farmers and Government to eliminate the need for mutilations.
- There is currently no one system in which tail biting is prevented reliably. To obviate the need for tail docking, the pig industry should adopt various approaches, e.g., genetic and environmental. Better awareness of the early signs of an incipient outbreak and advice on mitigating actions could improve confidence in managing risks. With increasing confidence, producers could be persuaded to remove a smaller proportion of tails that they dock, and in due course leave more tails intact.
- Evidence on the best method for docking tails is lacking, and sometimes differs between systems. Staff competence and equipment quality have the greatest effect in minimising stress, but practical methods of analgesia should also be developed.
- Tooth reduction should only be carried out selectively in defined circumstances where the risks from not performing it are great. When carried out, the mutilation should involve minimal reduction to a blunt point. There is a need for better equipment and competence in its use.
- Better evidence is required on optimal methods for pig identification – without mutilation if possible – and the benefits of topical analgesia. When slap marking, the objective should be a clear mark on one side only, with minimal stress and pain. Any new techniques that meet these requirements should be permitted.
- Raising entire males improves their welfare in early life, avoiding the pain and discomfort of castration. Welfare may be impaired subsequently because of aggression and mounting, but these should be minor problems with good husbandry. Increased pressure to reduce taint as slaughter weight increases should be addressed by genetic selection for reduced taint and improved, automated on-line detection.
- Government ought to provide improved guidelines on enrichment for piglets and growing pigs, to remove any uncertainty regarding interpretation of legislation. The efficacy of enrichment is better assessed by outcome measures than by a prescriptive list of materials. As enrichment has a wider impact on pig welfare than just preventing behavioural problems, there is a need to consider species-specific behaviours and not just the absence of injurious behaviour.
- Farmers and other stakeholders should continue to work towards the goal of a reduction in the use – and eventual abolition – of mutilations in piglets and growing pigs.
- Pig breeding companies should set breeding goals that minimise the need for mutilations, e.g., by incorporating appropriate behavioural measures in breeding indices.
- Incentives should be provided by retailers and others to avoid mutilations in piglets and growing pigs. Retailers should apply consistent criteria in their sourcing from different countries.
- Government should consider making available CAP Pillar II funding for improvements to buildings or practices, which reduce the need for mutilations.
- If mutilations are to be carried out on piglets and growing pigs, the industry and Government should provide guidance on best practice and training. Operators should have a certificate of competence.
- Further research should be carried out on optimal methods of analgesia when mutilations are required.
- Where pain relief is practical during and after mutilations, it should be applied.
- There should be improved public surveillance and enforcement of current legislation prohibiting routine tail docking. Farm Assurance Schemes should give increased attention to compliance with this requirement.
- A Tail Docking Action Group should be set up by the British pig industry and Government, to put existing initiatives on a formal basis, to devise and implement a strategy to reduce the need for tail docking while preventing tail biting.
- Tooth reduction in pigs should be permitted only after a risk assessment, and involve minimal blunting with suitable equipment done by competent staff
- Castration of pigs should not be practised and should be banned, except as a procedure carried out by a veterinary surgeon. Retailers should require imported produce to come from pigs that have not been castrated, with increased emphasis on prevention and detection of boar taint.
- Further research is required on the best methods for identification of pigs, taking account of welfare, clarity and durability and avoiding mutilation if possible. As soon as possible, legislation should be amended to permit the use of a single slap mark or equivalent.
- The role of environmental enrichment in facilitating good welfare, as well as preventing injurious behaviour, should be recognised. Guidelines for efficacy under farm conditions should be developed.