France faces EU pig welfare investigation

By Melodie Michel

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Animal welfare European union Livestock Pork

France faces EU pig welfare investigation
Animal welfare organisation Alsace Nature has filed a complaint with the European Commission against France, pointing to “regular and systematic breaching” of the EU directive on pig welfare.

The charity argues that although the directive making playing material, such as straw, hay or wood, mandatory on pig farms has been adopted by French law, the administration has chosen to overlook breaches to please farmers.

Anne Vonesch, regional secretary at Alsace Nature, told GlobalMeatNews: “There is a minimum regulation, but it is never enforced. The French administration is responsible, because it is letting the sector do as it pleases. No funding has been allocated to animal welfare and there is no government initiative to improve the situation. The government’s objective is not to upset the pig industry, so it leaves animal welfare control to the sector’s responsibility instead of appointing an independent body.”

A first complaint was filed in 2009, but although it acknowledged the cases for concern, the European Commission chose an educational approach and organised workshops on manipulating materials, without ruling out a future investigation.

“We think it now deserves an investigation, as it is deliberate non-compliance that not only breaches animal welfare rules, but also creates unfair competition at the national and international levels. It’s a matter of sustainable and ethical competitiveness,”​ Vonesch added.

Manipulating material

Some French producers use chains as manipulating materials for pigs, a move condemned by Alsace Nature, as it is not one of the materials mentioned in the directive and can hurt pigs. “The directive says the manipulating material can be straw, hay, wood ‘or a mixture of these’, but the French administration has transformed this into ‘or other materials’, justifying the use of chains. This is an unacceptable alteration of the text,”​ said Vonesch.

Manipulating activities are meant to entertain pigs, as boredom and unhappiness can prompt them to gnaw on each other’s tails. At the moment, most French producers have opted to cut pigs’ tails to avoid the issue, even though the legislation forbids routine sectioning of tails.

Vonesch added: “The scientific community wants to satisfy pigs’ needs, but on the other side, farmers do not want any restrictions. Animal welfare is the least of France’s worries.

“The implementation of the directive in 2003 should have encouraged innovation, but it has not been enforced. Some countries have been innovating but there has been no effort made in France. A 2010 European inspection even revealed that the level of manipulating material does not conform. It is a deliberate and voluntary breaching of the directive.”

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