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Tail docking and enrichment

Council Directive 2008/120/EC, laying down minimum requirements for the welfare of pigs kept for farming purposes in the EU requires that all pigs be given environmental enrichment (manipulable materials) to keep them purposefully occupied and provide appropriate stimuli to satisfy their inquisitive nature. The Directive also explicitly prohibits the routine tail docking of pigs. Tail docking can be avoided by providing appropriate enrichment materials and by adapting management to minimise stress. In spite of the provisions laid down in the Directive, pigs are still routinely tail-docked in most European countries, with the notable exceptions of Sweden and Finland. Download our briefing on the Pigs Directive for the aspects concerning tail docking and enrichment (link).

The European Commission is aware of the widespread violations to pig welfare legislation, and has recently decided to take a “soft” approach to increase compliance with the ban on routine tail docking and the provision of environmental enrichment. As a first step, in March 2016 DG SANTE published a Recommendation (Link) and Staff Working Document (link) clarifying some important aspects of the Pigs Directive concerning enrichment and tail docking. These documents constitute an important basis for the competent authorities of Member States to increase the degree of implementation of the Directive.

As a second step, the Food and Health Audits and Analysis Unit (F2) of DG SANTE (previously known as the Food and Veterinary Office), has been charged of drawing up an action plan for the next 3 years that will hopefully lead to full implementation of the Directive. In extreme cases the Commission has announced that it will launch infringements procedures.

Eurogroup for Animals is closely monitoring the process and will continue to lobby and campaign for mutilation-free pig farming in the EU.



Regrettably, Council Directive 2008/120/EC still allows the surgical castration of male piglets without anaesthesia or analgesia until the 7th day of life. However, not only is the procedure questionable from an ethical and animal welfare perspective, but alternatives to surgical castration are already available and in use in several Member States. These options should be encouraged and promoted, and market barriers finally removed, so that surgical castration can become a thing of the past.

To address these issues, in 2010 the European Commission, with the support of the Belgian presidency of the Council of the European Union, established the “European Declaration on alternatives to surgical castration of pigs”. The Declaration is a voluntary commitment signed by 33 stakeholders of the pork chain (farmers, veterinarians, meat industry, NGOs, governmental bodies, researchers, etc.), and the final aim was to abandon surgical castration by 1 January 2018.

Eurogroup for Animals considers the phasing out of surgical piglet castration as a very important strategic objective. Consequently, we will continue to cooperate with other stakeholders and with DG SANTE towards the objectives of the European Declaration. However, we also believe that the situation calls for stronger actions and a revitalization of the political agenda concerning pig welfare. Therefore, we are collaborating with member organisations in key countries to accelerate the process.

Download our briefing on the European Declaration (link).

MEP Working Group on Pig Welfare


The support of the European Parliament is crucial for securing a sustained political attention on the topic of pig welfare. Eurogroup for Animals is coordinating the MEP working group on Pig Welfare led by Jeppe Kofod (S&D Group) and belonging to the Intergroup for the Welfare and Conservation of Animals. This working group is committed to undertake all necessary actions to sensitise other MEPs, the European Commission and the Council about the importance of pushing for better standards of welfare in pig farming.