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Phasing out pig tail docking in the EU - present state, challenges and possibilities

In many European countries the majority of the pigs are still routinely tail-docked, which is a violation of the European legislation.

Wednesday 21 November 2018 (6 months 1 days ago)
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European legislation dictates that pig tail docking is not allowed to be performed routinely (European Union. Council Directive 2008/120/EC of 18 December 2008 laying down minimum standards for the protection of pigs. OJ L 47, 18.2.2009). Nevertheless, tail docking is still practiced routinely in many European countries, while four countries stopped routine tail docking completely. Tail docking is also practiced in many countries outside Europe.

The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE), the European Association of Porcine Health Management (EAPHM) together with the European Commission carried out an online survey to investigate the situation regarding the practice of pig tail docking and the provision of enrichment material across 24 European countries. It also focuses on the role of the veterinary profession and gives an overview on published literature regarding the challenges and possibilities related to the raising of pigs with intact tails.

Results

Fifty-seven (57) usable survey responses from 24 countries were received. On average 77% (median = 95%) of pigs are routinely tail-docked. In Finland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, less than 5% of the pigs are tail-docked. According to the respondents, 67% of pigs (median = 76%) across the 24 EU countries surveyed are given suitable enrichment materials. Training of veterinary practitioners, their role in advising the producer and undertaking a risk assessment of tail biting were more positively valued in countries that stopped routine tail docking than in countries that had not stopped routine tail docking. Initiatives such as training from national authorities to encourage abandoning tail docking and routine recording of tail biting at the slaughterhouse were identified as two successful items to promote the raising of pigs with entire tails.

Conclusion

In many European countries the majority of the pigs are still routinely tail-docked, which is a violation of the European legislation. To stop routine tail docking it is necessary to raise the awareness and education about risk factors to prevent tail biting. The growing knowledge about the reasons for failing voluntary national initiatives as well as about successful measures taken by some countries to make pig production with intact tails feasible should be distributed throughout the EU pig producing community. The veterinary profession has a significant role to play in raising awareness, facilitate knowledge transfer and to identify risk factors and solutions on farm level for the benefit of pig health and welfare.

Nancy De Briyne, Charlotte Berg, Thomas Blaha, Andreas Palzer and Déborah Temple. Phasing out pig tail docking in the EU - present state, challenges and possibilities. Porcine Health Management 2018, 4:27. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40813-018-0103-8

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