Guardian finally releases long awaited article on the curse of tail-docking in Italy and beyond
On a farm deep in Italy’s Lombardy region, scores of contented-looking pigs gambol, play and root about in spacious pens deep in straw. It looks more rural idyll than 1,000-strong breeding farm, but the pigs at this Fumagalli farm are in a lucky minority.
Unlike many of the pigs destined for the country’s prestigious prosciutto market – worth 7.98bn euros (£7bn) last year – they have not been subjected to the painful practice of tail-docking. A recent EU audit found that across farms in Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna, the country’s two main pig breeding regions, 98% of farmers remove their animals’ tails, a rate that stands among the highest in Europe.
Tail-docking – carried out without anaesthetic when the piglet is three to four days old – is intended to prevent the severe injuries that can occur when pigs bite each others’ tails. Studies have shown it causes acute trauma and pain, and can trigger infections and leave lasting discomfort.
A 2014 EU report notes that the crowded, stressful conditions common on industrial-scale farms, in which pigs are unable to pursue their natural investigative behaviour, are the main trigger for tail-biting outbreaks. Routine tail-docking is illegal under an EU directive, and although this legislation is not enforced across Europe, the practice is banned under Italian law. So why are these regulations so broadly disregarded?