Legal requirements on animal welfare at pig farms
The legal requirements regarding pig welfare on intensive pig farms are the result of the implementation of Directives 2001/88/EC of 23 October 2001 and 2001/93/EC of 9 November 2001, amending Directive 91/630/EEC of 19 November 1991 laying down minimum standards for the protection of pigs. These laws are codified in Directive 2008/120/EC of 18 December 2008. The most important aspects of this legislation are as follows:
Housing of pregnant sows
The use of tethers for sows on any farm, regardless of when it was constructed, is prohibited. As of 1 January 2013, pregnant sows must be kept in groups for the period between 4 weeks following service and 1 week before the expected time of farrowing. The Scientific Veterinary Committee (1997) reported that some serious welfare problems such as stereotypies, unresolved aggression and consequent stress, inactivity and urinary tract infections are more common in sows allocated in stalls than in groups.
Pregnant sows housed in group using electronic feeding system with protection
"Stereotypies such as bar biting or sham chewing are frequent in pregnant sows kept in stalls, while they are less frequent in sows kept in groups"
For animals kept in groups, the total unobstructed floor area available to each individual must be at least 1.64 m2 per gilt after service and at least 2.25 m2 per sow. When the animals are kept in groups of fewer than 6 individuals, the unobstructed floor area must be increased by 10%. When they are kept in groups of 40 or more individuals, the unobstructed floor area may be decreased by 10%. The sides of the pens for pregnant sows must be more than 2.8 m long. When pregnant sows are kept in groups of fewer than 6 individuals, the sides of the pen must be more than 2.4 m long. Part of the aforementioned unobstructed floor area must be continuous.
Specifically, 0.95 m2 of continuous floor must be available for each gilt after service and 1.3 m2 for each sow. In both cases, a maximum of 15% of the continuous floor shall be reserved for drainage openings. In the week before the expected farrowing time, sows and gilts must have access to material allowing them to express nesting behaviour, unless it is not technically feasible due to the slurry system used. Some examples of nesting material are straw, hay, wood, sawdust, mushroom compost, peat or a mixture of such, which does not compromise the health of the animals.