EFSA recommendations to improve welfare of pigs on farm and during transport

  • Subject
    EFSA, hazards, risk factors, pig welfare on farm, pig welfare during transport
  • Target audience
    Competent Authorities, inspectors and welfare policy workers of the EU Member States
More info and sources
In the framework of its Farm to Fork Strategy, the European Commission is undertaking a comprehensive evaluation of the animal welfare legislation. The Commission requested EFSA to give independent views on the protection of welfare of pigs kept on farms and during transport.

In two scientific opinions, EFSA provided recommendations to the European Commission intended to support its ongoing review of pig welfare legislation.

Welfare of pigs on farm

A total of 16 welfare consequences for different relevant husbandry systems in Europe are considered by EFSA’s experts to be highly relevant due to their severity, duration, and frequency of occurrence. These include restriction of movement, group, heat or cold stress, and prolonged hunger or thirst. 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.

Protection of pigs during transport

Overall, EFSA experts identified 10 welfare consequences as highly relevant for the welfare of pigs during transport based on the severity, duration and frequency of occurrence: group stress, handling stress, heat stress, injuries, motion stress, prolonged hunger, prolonged thirst, restriction of movement, resting problems and sensory overstimulation. These welfare consequences and their animal‐based measures are described.

A variety of hazards were identified, mainly relating to factors such as mixing of unfamiliar pigs, inappropriate handling methods and devices, the use of pick‐up pens, inexperienced/untrained handlers, structural deficiencies of vehicles and facilities, poor driving conditions, unfavourable microclimatic and environmental conditions and poor husbandry practices leading to these welfare consequences. The Opinion contains general and specific conclusions relating to the different stages of transport of pigs. Recommendations to prevent hazards and to correct or mitigate welfare consequences are made.

Upcoming public event on animal welfare

On 26 September, EFSA is holding a public event in which it will present the results of the scientific opinions on the transport of animals and its recently published advice on the welfare of farmed pigs. More information can be found at this link.

Introphoto: Close-up pigs (©WUR)