EU citizens are calling for an end to pig pain with a new campaign launched today by Eurogroup for Animals. Every year millions of male piglets are painfully castrated in the EU to avoid the risk of boar taint. The routine tail docking and tooth clipping of piglets continues to happen in most EU member states in violation of existing EU laws.
Surgical castration of piglets without (or with inadequate) anaesthesia and analgesia remains common in Europe and affects 77 million animals every year. Additionally, an estimated 2.8 billion pigs have had their tails docked since the current EU ban on routine tail docking came into force in 2003 (source: CIWF). Routine tooth clipping of piglets is also still widespread.
The EndPigPain campaign calls on national agricultural ministers to stop the routine pain caused to pigs reared for meat in the EU and to ensure proper implementation and enforcement of the EU Pigs Directive. Citizens will also ask their ministers to prepare national roadmaps to phase out surgical piglet castration, with the aim to obtain an EU-ban by 2024. The campaign will run for at least one year, with the aim of collecting 1 million signatures to hand over to decision makers.
‘Painful husbandry procedures such as castration and tail docking are inherent in today’s pig farming, but completely unnecessary. Technically and economically feasible alternatives to eventually lead to pain free pig farming already exist and must now be mainstreamed’, says Reineke Hameleers, Director of Eurogroup for Animals.
The routine tail docking and tooth clipping of pigs has been illegal in the EU for more than 20 years. Legislation requires that farmers address inadequate environmental conditions and management systems before resorting to these painful practices. Not enough has been done to verify that adequate environmental enrichment is provided to all pigs, or to ensure that pig management meets European good practice.
“The well-documented lack of enforcement of the EU Pigs Directive in most member states is a striking example of the inertia of national and EU regulators when strong economic interests are perceived to clash with animal welfare.” says MEP Sirpa Pietikainen, President of the European Parliament Intergroup for the welfare and conservation of animals.
She adds, “On surgical castration, currently not covered by this Directive, voluntary commitments have clearly failed. Too little has happened since stakeholders signed the Brussels Declaration in 2010 and committed to phasing out surgical pig castration. Seven years later, those commitments are still little more than good intentions. But there is no excuse for waiting longer: routine painful husbandry procedures must disappear, and pigs must be provided with better care. The Intergroup for the welfare and conservation of animals is pleased to see Eurogroup for Animals calling on national agricultural ministers to listen to the voices of concerned citizens with this campaign”.
Every year in the EU millions of male piglets continue to be surgically castrated either without or with inadequate anaesthesia and analgesia. And yet alternatives exist. In most systems, with adequate management and nutrition, pigs can be raised entire (as boars). Vaccination against boar taint means avoiding surgical castration when keeping entire males is not (or not yet) a viable option. Pending the adoption of such viable alternatives, surgical castration with adequate anaesthesia and prolonged analgesia can still offer a temporary solution that, if correctly performed, can reduce animal suffering. However, the final aim must be to completely phase out surgical castration.