30 years after EU Pig Welfare Legislation, will the EU finally step up to protect pigs?


Alice Di Concetto and Olga Kikou, Opinion, The Brussels Times (Belgium)

19 November 2021


Di Concetto is founder of the European Institute for Animal Law & Policy, and Kikou is head of Compassion in World Farming EU.

This is an opinion article by an external contributor. The views belong to the writer.


In 1991, the EU adopted legislation laying down minimum standards for the protection of pigs, becoming one of the few jurisdictions in the world to ensure such standards for pigs on farms. However, despite the Pigs Directive having been revised twice since then, pigs in the EU are subject to horrendous living standards.


This is primarily due to the proliferation of factory farms, where sows spend half their lives in cages; farm workers routinely mutilate piglets with castration, tail docking, and tooth clipping; and newborn pigs deemed too weak to survive the inhumane, artificial conditions are smashed upon the floor – a lawful killing method according to the EU Slaughter Regulation. For most EU pigs, the only time they will breathe fresh air, and experience daylight, is a brief moment during transport to the slaughterhouse.


In 2008, ahead of the EU’s recognition of animal sentience in the Lisbon Treaty, which asserted EU countries should “pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals,” the Commission revised the Pigs Directive in an attempt to beef up welfare levels in pig production. But to animal advocates, the result was disappointing to say the least.


The reform included surface-level changes involving a slightly shortened duration of cage use for sows, limiting extreme confinement to three weeks during gestation. Though because sows are continually impregnated, their time spent in cages still typically amounts to half of their lives.


Lack of enforcement ...


Does not make business sense ...


Reform of Directive


With the upcoming reform of the Pigs Directive, the EU will have a golden opportunity to make substantive reforms that should have been in place for the past 30 years. For the EU to truly honor its word as stated in the 2009 Lisbon Treaty, the revised Pigs Directive must:


·         Ban the use of cages

·         Ban mutilation (castration, tail docking, teeth clipping)

·         Reduce density levels to a significant degree, something that has been achieved in Sweden and Finland

·         Allow animals to spend the vast majority of their lives outdoors and, when indoors, provide them with appropriate and sufficient environmental enrichment materials


Crucially, the EU should enforce the above measures... 


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