January 12, 2012
HSI Works to Ensure Welfare of Pigs in the European Union
Animal protection advocates worldwide point to the European Union’s legislation to improve the welfare of egg laying hens and pigs as shining examples of progress and care for farm animals. As of 1st January 2012, the confinement of hens in barren battery cages was completely banned throughout the E.U. The use of gestation crates, or sow stalls, to confine breeding sows is due to be entirely phased out by the end of this year.
Reality less ideal
However, many EU countries have failed to fully implement this legislation. Battery cages continue to be used in various Member States, and the confinement of pregnant pigs in sow stalls is still common in some places despite the looming ban. For example, a recent study found that by 2009 only 25 percent of Belgian pig farmers had moved (some or all of) their gestating pigs out of sow stalls and only 7 percent were planning to convert from sow stalls to group housing before 2011.
Farmers appear to be either postponing the conversion for as long as possible, or have no intention of converting (although some may cease operations altogether). There is little data available on conversion rates to group housing systems elsewhere in the EU. Thus far only Sweden, the United Kingdom and Luxembourg have reported that they are already in compliance with the legislation.
Calling for action
HSI and other animal protection groups in Europe are working to ensure that the bans on the intensive confinement of farm animals are fully implemented throughout the EU, raising the bar for the treatment of farm animals globally. HSI has written directly to John Dalli, EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, about our concerns with regard to the lagging implementation of Council Directive 2008/120/EC laying down minimum standards for the protection of pigs.
If you live in the EU, please add your voice to the call for full implementation of the ban on sow stalls by signing our petition. Every three months, we will be sending Commissioner Dalli an update on the number of signatories, and will urge him once again to ensure that not a single pig remains confined in a sow stall in the EU on 1st January 2013.