20 September 2000
Welfarists demand farrowing crate ban

By FWi staff

ANIMAL welfare groups are calling for an EU ban on the use of conventional farrowing crates, except for the first few days of piglets lives.

At present sows in the UK and elsewhere are kept in crates to prevent piglets being crushed until they are weaned at between three and four weeks old.

But the RSPCA says they cause distress and frustration to sows as they cannot fulfil their instinct to build a nest.

Instead it wants new EU law to consider alternatives, although recognising these must still protect piglets.

This call came at the launch of a new RSPCA-backed report which claims millions of pigs are kept in appalling conditions which cause suffering and distress.

The report The Welfare of Pigs was written by Eurogroup, a Brussels-based umbrella organisation of animal welfare groups.

It comes in advance of proposals to amend the current EU directive, due in November.

The report also claims that many sows outside the UK suffer bone weakness and muscle wastage because they spend their lives in narrow stalls, and calls for them to be banned.

Stalls have been banned in the UK since the beginning of 1999, and UK producers claim this places them at a disadvantage to less welfare-friendly competitors.

Dr Julia Wrathall, deputy head of the RSPCA farm animals department, said there were alternatives to stalls and farrowing crates.

“Such methods cause significant frustration and distress. There are viable welfare-friendly alternatives and we would like to see more of these introduced.”

The RSPCA also wants a complete ban on castration and the prohibition of routine tail-docking, tooth-grinding and tooth-clipping.

And more space and bedding should be provided and slatted floors should be prohibited, it says.

The RSPCA launches national advertising on Wednesday (20 September) to back the campaign.