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Opinion on Mutilations and Environmental Enrichment in Piglets and Growing Pigs

by 5m Editor
8 April 2011, at 12:00am

Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) Opinions are short reports to Government on contemporary topics relating to farm animal welfare. They are based on evidence and consultation with interested parties. They may highlight particular concerns and indicate issues for further consideration.

Scope

  1. To assess the need for, and explore the welfare costs and benefits of, mutilations carried out in piglets and growing pigs (up to slaughter weight, e.g., 120 kg liveweight).

  2. To consider the extent to which management or husbandry practices, including environmental enrichment, might reduce the need for mutilations, and other welfare benefits of environmental enrichment.

  3. To consider how mutilation procedures can be refined where they are necessary, including the possibility of providing pain relief.

  4. Consideration of sows and boars is excluded. In some cases, welfare considerations will be similar to those for young pigs, but differences arise from age, reproductive state and husbandry.

Conclusions

  1. British pig farmers and Government should develop production systems in which mutilations are not necessary. Government should determine whether Pillar II support could be used in this regard.

  2. Farmers should (continue to) seek alternatives to mutilations. Surveillance is needed to help farmers to avoid the need for mutilations, e.g., by identifying risk factors.

  3. The food chain should support the efforts of farmers and Government to eliminate the need for mutilations.

  4. There is currently no one system in which tail biting is prevented reliably. To obviate the need for tail docking, the pig industry should adopt various approaches, e.g., genetic and environmental. Better awareness of the early signs of an incipient outbreak and advice on mitigating actions could improve confidence in managing risks. With increasing confidence, producers could be persuaded to remove a smaller proportion of tails that they dock, and in due course leave more tails intact.

  5. Evidence on the best method for docking tails is lacking, and sometimes differs between systems. Staff competence and equipment quality have the greatest effect in minimising stress, but practical methods of analgesia should also be developed.

  6. Tooth reduction should only be carried out selectively in defined circumstances where the risks from not performing it are great. When carried out, the mutilation should involve minimal reduction to a blunt point. There is a need for better equipment and competence in its use.

  7. Better evidence is required on optimal methods for pig identification – without mutilation if possible – and the benefits of topical analgesia. When slap marking, the objective should be a clear mark on one side only, with minimal stress and pain. Any new techniques that meet these requirements should be permitted.

  8. Raising entire males improves their welfare in early life, avoiding the pain and discomfort of castration. Welfare may be impaired subsequently because of aggression and mounting, but these should be minor problems with good husbandry. Increased pressure to reduce taint as slaughter weight increases should be addressed by genetic selection for reduced taint and improved, automated on-line detection.

  9. Government ought to provide improved guidelines on enrichment for piglets and growing pigs, to remove any uncertainty regarding interpretation of legislation. The efficacy of enrichment is better assessed by outcome measures than by a prescriptive list of materials. As enrichment has a wider impact on pig welfare than just preventing behavioural problems, there is a need to consider species-specific behaviours and not just the absence of injurious behaviour.

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.

April 2011