25 December 1998

Study shows docking cuts tail biting

TAIL-DOCKING pigs, although banned as a routine practice, can reduce the occurrence of tail-biting by 300%, say researchers.

CAMBAC director, Jane Guise, says a study of 66,000 slaughter pigs from six abattoirs highlighted a significant reduction in tail biting where pigs had been docked.

Researchers also found that castrated male pigs and pigs on ad-lib diets suffered less from tail-biting. But the £20,000 study funded by the RSPCA and Malton Foods which also looked at pig rearing and finishing systems suggests there are no significant differences in tail biting damage between pigs kept in straw yards or slatted-floor pens.

The results question some of the legal restrictions on-farm which are supposed to improve pig welfare, but may be undermining it, suggests Dr Guise, who quotes tail docking and castration as examples.

Researchers now hope to pin-point further causes of tail-biting with a survey of 400 producers whose pigs were included in the original study. The results of this £3000 survey, funded by the Pig Veterinary Society and two producer co-operatives, are due to be released early next year.