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More space on pig farms


The 1st January 2013 brought with it some advances in animal welfare. One of them is the full application of European directive on livestock farms, and more specifically, on those dedicated to pig farming [1]

The application of this directive is obligatory from the first day of this year, generating reactions from the specialised sector, particularly over the alterations that pig farms should have implemented – in accordance with the schedule set out in the directive for farms newly built or rebuilt from 2003 –, as the EU laid down minimum standards for the protection of pigs in 2001 [2]. Therefore, 12 years after its initial disposition, the directive is mandatory in Spain from 1st January this year.

The most critical sector of farmers has protested against the provisions of the directive, because of the expense that the changes to the farms involve in an economic climate of crisis like the current one. However, the general consensus that has prevailed is that reiterated by the EU on the prominence of animal welfare. In Europe, once supply quotas have been overcome, what is important and prevails is animal welfare, as a component of a globalized market and as a measure for guaranteeing public health.

The aspect that has had the biggest impact is the space allocated to the different types of animals [3] -of pigs-, for rearing and fattening, as the minimum unobstructed floor area when they are reared in groups is specified in a table of measurements attached to the text of the Royal Decree. To sum up, the proportion will be an unobstructed floor area measuring 2.25 cm2 for sows and 1.64 cm2 for gilts.

Its aim is to stop overcrowding in some intensive livestock farms but the directive also applies – and for which there is an adapted penalty system – to extensive livestock farms. The question is whether, after more than ten years defining the directive for the EU, these criteria are still valid or, in our case, should they have been updated and revised in any case before they came into force with no going back.

If you would like an example of the effects of applying a European directive on livestock, which generated a lot of debate in Spain and was criticised by all sectors of society, think back to the directive on laying hens and fattening, that is, the elimination of battery farming (battery cages [4]). After a year, it could be said that the application of the regulation has been a success and has penetrated even the most change resistant layers of society, as usually happens in the consumer environment. Nowadays, there is not a supermarket whose shelves do not include, well distinguished, free range eggs and eggs whose farming method is not specified but whose obligatory code warns consumers that the eggs they are going to buy do not guarantee that the hens have been reared under minimum welfare standards.

It is easy to imagine that this time next year, a similar phenomenon will occur and that we will start asking how the animal whose meat we are going to consume has been reared before buying it. It is true that before this happens, farming methods still need to be included on the label, which will represent a change that the governing bodies of the EU have been advocating. It is a promising outlook for all those who think that more training and information about animal rights will lead to more respect for their interests, which are none other than those that animal welfare has been trying to guarantee.

Teresa Giménez-Candela
Professor of Roman Law
Animal Law Professor
Autonomous University of Barcelona

[1] Royal Decree 1392/2012, of 5 October, amending Royal Decree 1135/2002, of 31 October, on the minimum standards for protecting pigs (Official State Gazette [BOE] no. 241, of 6/10/2012)
[2] Royal Decree 1135/2002 is the result of the incorporation into Spanish law of Directive 2001/88/EC, of 23 October 2001, amending Directive 91/630/EEC laying down minimum standards for the protection of pigs. The definitive version of both directives is included in Council Directive 120/2008 of 18 December.
[3] The Royal Decree distinguishes between sow: “female pig after the first farrowing”; gilt: “female pig after puberty and before farrowing” (a female pig is a rearing pig until puberty); piglet: “pig from birth to weaning”; weaner: “a pig from weaning to the age of 10 weeks; rearing pig: “a pig from 10 weeks to slaughter or service”; boar: “a male pig after puberty, intended for breeding”.
[4] Cfr. Giménez-Candela, T., Cuestión de huevos; WISE, S., An argument for the Basic Legal Rights of Farmed Animals; In 2012, EU countries must eliminate battery farming

keys farming, pigs , battery

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