Europe’s pig sector faces animal welfare crisis

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Europe’s pig sector faces animal welfare crisis

13 September 2017
News
With a new multimedia exhibition in the European Parliament this week, Eurogroup for Animals is ringing the alarm bell on over 20 years of systematic violations of European pig welfare legislation.

Millions of European piglets have their tails routinely cut or burned off, their teeth clipped or ground away, and the males are painfully castrated. In most member states pigs are also raised in barren, overcrowded conditions, without any possibility to carry out natural behaviours. 

Strasbourg, 13 September 2017 – With a new multimedia exhibition in the European Parliament this week, Eurogroup for Animals is ringing the alarm bell on over 20 years of systematic violations of European pig welfare legislation. Millions of European piglets have their tails routinely cut or burned off, their teeth clipped or ground away, and the males are painfully castrated. In most member states pigs are also raised in barren, overcrowded conditions, without any possibility to carry out natural behaviours. [1]

For the first time in the European Parliament, this exhibition entitled “Ending Pig Pain: working towards a more humane pig industry in the EU”, allows visitors to observe a series of striking artistic photographs of pigs in different farming systems in Europe, and to immerse themselves into the shocking reality of an industrial pig farm in Italy through a virtual reality experience. [2]

Photo gallery available here.

The inauguration on 12 September warmly welcomed EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis who tried for himself the virtual reality experience. Several MEPs also took part, including Sirpa Pietikainen, President of the Intergroup for the Welfare and Conservation of Animals.

Jeppe Kofod MEP, S&D Group, who opened the exhibition said,

“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. 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”.   He adds, ‘‘I am delighted to host this exhibition, which highlights the immediate need to end this unnecessary suffering, and to show the EU that it is time to deliver strong animal welfare legislation and sanctions for breaking the rules’’.

The exhibition showcases Eurogroup for Animals’ 2017 flagship campaign End Pig Pain, which calls on national agricultural ministers to stop the routine pain caused to pigs reared for meat in the EU, ensure the enforcement of the EU Pigs Directive, and ultimately support an EU ban on surgical castration by 2024. [3] The campaign builds on the 2016 Eurobarometer survey, where a staggering 94 percent of European citizens believe that better protecting the welfare of farm animals is important. [4]

According to Dr. Elena Nalon, veterinarian and Farm Animals Programme Leader at Eurogroup for Animals:

‘‘Millions of European piglets still routinely suffer from unnecessary surgical procedures without pain relief. This goes against veterinary good practice, and in the case of tail docking and tooth clipping, it also goes against EU laws. Not to mention the barren conditions, the boredom, the misery that pigs endure in industrial farms during their lives. It’s time to admit that European animal welfare legislation is to all effects failing to protect farm animals.” She added, ‘‘we need to change this system. Firstly, by enforcing existing laws, and secondly by reconsidering how we treat sentient beings in the farming industry. Now is the time for the EU to really show leadership.’’

Roberto Bennati, Vice President of LAV, Eurogroup for Animals member and organiser of the virtual reality experience commented with:

‘‘LAV has conducted several important investigations on pig farming over the past year, with a focus on the inhumane practice of routine pig mutilations, a phenomenon that is particularly widespread in Italy. Through our 360 degrees virtual reality experience, viewers can enter into a typical industrial pig farm and see for themselves the degree of unnecessary suffering that these intelligent and sensitive animals have to endure. Once seen, this is something that cannot be forgotten, and we are certain that this exhibition will stimulate concrete actions to End Pig Pain.”

The multimedia exhibition, hosted by Jeppe Kofod MEP, S&D Group with the Intergroup for the Welfare and Conservation of Animals, Eurogroup and LAV is open until 14 September.

                                                                                                                                                                                        

Contacts:

Elena Nalon, DVM, Ph.D., Farm Animals Programme Leader, Eurogroup for Animals, Email: e.nalon@eurogroupforanimals.org

Lucy Mathieson, Communications Officer, Eurogroup for Animals, Email: l.mathieson@eurogroupforanimals.org, Tel: +32 470847573

Notes:

[1] Ref: Pg. 45, Animal Welfare in the EU, study for the PETI Committee: The living conditions for many animals are scarcely regulated by EU law, e.g. dairy cows, rabbits, domestic fowl kept for breeding laying hens or broilers, ducks, and turkeys. For others, there is legislation but it does not prevent some negative aspects of living conditions on welfare. Examples include broiler chickens and fattening pigs. Broiler chickens in the EU still have high levels of painful leg disorders and fattening pigs often have their tails docked despite the EU Directive 2008/120 (see also Section 10.4). http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2017/583114/IPOL_STU(2017)583114_EN.pdf
[2] The exhibition is open from 12 – 14 September, E. Colombo Space, 1st floor, Louise Weiss building, EP, Strasbourg photos here https://www.flickr.com/photos/eurogroupforanimals/sets/72157685109470492/with/36786006710/ [please attribute correct copyright] – Virtual reality experience online version https://youtu.be/Dgi9VjvhjKQ (EN)
 – https://youtu.be/ChhX-_YJryY (IT)
[3] End Pig Pain campaign www.endpigpain.eu
[4] Page 9, Eurobarometer survey 2016  on animal welfare http://eurogrourb.cluster020.hosting.ovh.net/wp-content/uploads/Eurobarometer-2016-Animal-Welfare.pdf

It’s time to admit that European animal welfare legislation is to all effects failing to protect farm animals.
Dr. Elena Nalon, veterinarian and Farm Animals Programme Leader at Eurogroup for Animals