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Article: Member states fail to follow EU rules on tail-docking of pigs

25 August 2020

Member states are required to implement minimum standards for the protection of pigs, including a ban on routine tail-docking (2008/120/EC), but only two governments have introduced such prohibitive measures, according to the European Commission.

The news emerged after Swedish Member of the European Parliament Fredrick Federley (European People's Party: EPP) asked the European Commission to release information about its investigation into how member states are implementing the EU rules on pig welfare.

In a written response, released on 12 August, the Commission said that only Finland and Sweden have banned the routine tail docking of pigs.

The 10-year old EU law states that "neither tail-docking nor reduction of corner teeth must be carried out routinely but only where there is evidence that injuries to sows' teats or to other pigs' ears or tails have occurred".

The EU executive has been aware that EU member states were failing to enforce this requirement for some time and ran a three-year project from 2017 to 2019 to increase standards, including a requirement of national governments to develop action plans by the end of 2018.

But the Commission's response revealed that these plans lacked adequate compliance criteria for one or more of the six tail-docking risk factors, with the exception of Denmark.

EuroGroup for Animals, an umbrella organisation of different welfare non-governmental (NGOs), criticised the level of ambition of member states' action plans because it prevents intentions being translated into political action.

"This cruelty has to stop," Reineke Hameleers, CEO of EuroGroup for Animals, said on Twitter. "Infringement procedures are needed to ensure compliance with EU requirements in all member states."

In 2018, audits conducted in Germany, Spain and Denmark, found well over 95% of piglets routinely being had their tails docked.

In the Commission's response, which was given on behalf of Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, the EU executive defended itself by saying it will push for higher animal welfare standards as part of the Farm to Fork (F2F) Strategy.

This strategy aims to shape more sustainable agri-food supply chains and "revise the animal welfare legislation, including on animal transport and the slaughter of animals, to align it with the latest scientific evidence, broaden its scope, make it easier to enforce and ultimately ensure a higher level of animal welfare".

The Commission is aiming for it to be ready in the last quarter of 2023.

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