Tail biting still a big mystery

22 May 1998

Tail biting still a big mystery

PRODUCERS may be compromising welfare standards when complying with legislation outlawing routine tail docking of pigs.

Thats the view of pig vet, Christianne Glossop, who said although its illegal to routinely dock tails, producers are often left with little choice.

"The fact is that the industry is no nearer understanding what causes tail-biting in some herds and not others than when first references to the problem were made almost 50 years ago."

Causes are thought to include high stocking density or lack of bedding, but even when altered tail biting can still occur.

"Concern should not be over tail docking, but tail biting. Its a major welfare issue with the worst cases ending up as casualties."

CAMBAC researcher, Richard Perry, has conducted a survey of tail docked and undocked pigs. Monitoring pigs delivered to abattoirs, he found 9.6% of undocked pigs had suffered tail biting whereas only 3.3% of pigs with docked tails suffered from biting.

"Theres good scientific evidence to suggest tail docking reduces substantially the incidence of tail biting. But routine docking remains illegal. Producers should discuss the problem with their vet on a regular basis," added Dr Glossop.

As tail docking is not easily condoned, she is hoping to use colour photos to illustrate graphically the severity of tail biting to critics.

Christianne Glossop…

concern should not be over tail docking but tail biting.

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