Real Welfare assessments take place between 2-4 times a year, depending on how the farm operates. A sample of pigs, from a range of pens is assessed on each visit. The total number assessed per year depends on how many finisher places a farm has. The smallest farms have a minimum of 300 pigs assessed each year; the largest at least 900.
Real Welfare assessments are mandatory for all those who finish pigs under the Red Tractor Farm Assurance Pigs Standard. From August 2016 onwards, Real Welfare assessments were also required for those farms that finish pigs under the Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) Pigs Assurance Scheme, bringing its coverage to around 95% of all pigs produced in the UK.
A total of 5,463,348 pigs were assessed individually over the first three years of the scheme using the Real Welfare protocol. This represents a 17.5% of all pigs slaughtered in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Key findings from the biggest study of its type anywhere in the world included:
- Only 0.07% of pigs were identified as needing to be moved to a hospital pen for special treatment and, on more than three-quarters of farms, no pigs required hospitalisation
- Just 0.18% of non-hospitalised pigs were lame and, on more than three-quarters of farms, no pigs were lame
- Only 0.14% of pigs had severe tail damage and, on more than three-quarters of farms, no pigs had severe tail damage
- 70% of pigs had their tails docked, lower than in most other European countries where tail docking is permitted
- 0.26% of pigs had severe body marks
- 62% of pigs had access to substrate, most of which was straw, and 32% of pigs had access to objects.
Overall, all measures of physical injuries, except tail damage which was already low, decreased over the years Real Welfare has been operation, demonstrating an improvement to the welfare of individual animals in the British pig herd.
March 2017/ AHDB Pork/ United Kingdom.