18 April 2013    

The EU directive laying down minimum standards for the protection of pigs was adopted in 2001 (Council Directive 2001/88/EC of 23 October 2001 amending Directive 91/630/EEC laying down minimum standards for the protection of pigs). Both directives laid down the requirements to be met by all installations with pigs confined for rearing or fattening, and a period of 10 years was established for existing holdings to comply with the rules. In other words, compliance had been compulsory since 2003 for newly built or rebuilt holdings, and has been compulsory for all holdings as of 2013.

However, despite the new rules, work is still needed to improve pigs’ well-being. Article 3 of the directive lays down that Member States must ensure that sows and gilts are reared in groups of at least 10 sows or more. This guideline is still being ignored by producers in some Member States. Each year hundreds of pigs are mutilated, having their tails cut off or being castrated, sometimes with scissors, or having their back teeth extracted, even with pliers, despite the directive clearly stipulating that these practices must not be carried out in a rudimentary manner.

The industry hides behind claims that these mutilations are necessary to stop the pigs attacking each other by tail biting. However, it is the industry that has created this situation, owing to the deplorable conditions on farms.

What will the Commission do to guarantee full compliance with Directive 2001/88/EC? Does it plan to impose some kind of sanction on producers who do not comply with the rules? Will alternatives to castration be looked into? What less brutal alternatives are there to tail docking and tooth extraction?

29 May 2013    
Answer given by Mr Borg on behalf of the Commission

With regard to Directive 2008/120/EC(1) and the requirement for group housing of sows the Commission on 21 February 2013 launched infringement proceedings against nine Member States for non-compliance. On other issues such as the provision of manipulable material the Commission plans to develop guidelines. Such guidelines may assist both pig producers and Member States' authorities in their efforts to comply with the directive and thus e.g. avoid the need to tail dock pigs.

With regard to alternatives to pig castration currently five studies are being performed the outcomes of which should help ensure the phasing out of surgical castration by 2018.

It is furthermore the responsibility of the Member States to take all the necessary enforcement measures and/or sanctions as laid down in Articles 54 and 55 of Regulation (EC) No 882/2004(2) on official controls to correct the situation if cases of non-compliance are discovered.

(1)    OJ L 47, 18.2.2009; p 5.
(2)    OJ L 191, 28.5.2004.