One in three European countries remain unable to say whether they will comply with a forthcoming ban on sow stalls, claim animal welfare campaigners.

Sow stalls will be banned across the European Union from January 2013 – except for the first four weeks of gestation.

With less than five months to go until the EU ban comes into force, nine countries are still unable to prove they will comply.

The latest figures were obtained by Compassion in World Farming (CIWF).

They show that several member states – including Spain – have now joined the list of nations that will be ready for the introduction of the new legislation.

Dil Peeling, CIWF director of public affairs, said: “Farmers across Europe have had since 2001 to prepare for the new rules, and the fact that there are still a significant number of farms in some countries that are not yet compliant is concerning.”

CIWF said the new law would go some way to levelling the playing field for UK farmers, but would only help if it was fully enforced.

“Consumers in this country also deserve to be sure that what they are buying hasn’t been produced in an illegal system.

For the best pig welfare, we would advise shoppers to look out for the Soil Association organic label, free-range, outdoor-bred and -reared and RSPCA Freedom Food.

“We would also advise buying British, although it doesn’t guarantee high welfare, so it’s important to look for those other labels too.”

The 18 EU member states expected to be compliant by 1 January 2013 are Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Malta, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

This leaves Austria, Cyprus, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Poland, Portugal and Slovenia. Farms in Austria that remain non-compliant in 2013 are expected to cease production.

Pig industry leaders have called for legal action against countries that fail to comply with the sow stall ban.

But the European Commission says it cannot take action before the ban comes into place because until then no law is being broken.

The National Pig Association has said it wants “swift and decisive action” against member states that miss the 2013 deadline.

Johann Tasker on G+