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Organic pig farming in Europe (Dietze; University of Kassel)

Pigs and Animal Welfare

The welfare of pigs is not merely a practical matter of improving their health and increasing productivity: it is also an ethical issue in terms of the responsibility of pig farmers and stakeholders for considering the wellbeing of live pigs, particularly with regard to transport and slaughter. Perceptions of animal welfare vary with cultural backgrounds, but recent research on farm animal behaviour has made welfare criteria more objective and measurable.

In industrialized countries, the commercial pig sector faces increased pressure from consumers to abandon production practices that are not in line with the current understanding of animal welfare: commercial pig producers, for example, routinely grind or clip animals’ teeth and carry out tail docking and castration without anaesthetics. Stock densities, housing, exposure to daylight, and handling during transport and slaughter are aspects of pig production that will change as animal management practices are improved. There is evidence that adopting animal welfare practices above minimum requirements can open up marketing opportunities for commercial producers, particularly as consumers become more discriminating.

In smallholder pig production, improved animal welfare will have a direct impact on productivity and health. The promotion of low-cost practices for improved pig welfare should therefore be seen as a priority.