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EFSA publishes recommendations to improve pig welfare

Scientific opinion focuses on the welfare of pigs on farm, based on literature and expert opinion

A scientific opinion published by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on the welfare of pigs on farm, provides detailed suggestions to improve the welfare of farmed pigs kept in the most relevant husbandry systems used in the European Union. All pig categories were assessed: gilts and dry sows, farrowing and lactating sows, suckling piglets, weaners, rearing pigs and boars.

The opinion describes a total of 16 welfare consequences for different husbandry systems considered by EFSA’s experts to be highly relevant due to their severity, duration, and frequency of occurrence. These are: restriction of movement, resting problems, group stress, isolation stress, separation stress, inability to perform exploratory or foraging behaviour, inability to express maternal behaviour, inability to perform sucking behaviour, prolonged hunger, prolonged thirst, heat stress, cold stress, locomotory disorders (including lameness), soft tissue lesions and integument damage, respiratory disorders and gastro-enteric disorders. Related animal-based measures (ABMs) and hazards leading to welfare consequences are also described in the opinion for each welfare consequence.

The opinion provides measures that should be put in place to prevent or correct the hazards and to mitigate the highly relevant welfare consequences. EFSA’s experts make a number of detailed recommendations, including suggestions on the quantitative or qualitative criteria needed to answer specific questions on the welfare of farmed pigs that were raised as part of the European Citizen’s Initiative ‘End the Cage Age’. Among other topics covered in the recommendations related to tail biting are space allowance, enrichment material, weaning, and the practice of mutilations. EFSA’s experts also suggest which ABMs could be collected in slaughterhouses to monitor the level of welfare on pig farms.

This is the first of a series of scientific opinions on the welfare of animals kept for farming purposes, requested by the European Commission as a key component of its Farm to Fork (F2F) strategy. It provides a scientific basis to support a legislative proposal by the European Commission, scheduled for the second half of 2023, as part of the revision of the animal welfare legislation.

Article: EFSA AHAW Panel (EFSA Panel on Animal Health and Welfare), Nielsen, S. S., Alvarez, J., Bicout, D. J., Calistri, P., Canali, E., Drewe, J. A., Garin-Bastuji, B., Gonzales Rojas, J. L., Gortazar Schmidt, C., Herskin, M., Michel, V., Miranda Chueca, M. A., Padalino, B., Roberts, H. C., Stahl, K., Velarde, A., Viltrop, A., Winckler, C., Edwards, S., Ivanova, S., Leeb, C., Wechsler, B., Fabris, C., Lima, E., Mosbach-Schulz, O., Van der Stede, Y., Vitali, M., Spoolder, H. (2022). Scientific Opinion on the welfare of pigs on farm. EFSA Journal, 20(8):7421, 315 pp, doi: 10.2903/j.efsa.2022.7421

EFSA: Welfare of pigs on farm

Article details

  • Date
  • 25 August 2022
  • Source
  • EFSA
  • Subject(s)
  • Veterinary medicine