Europe’s pig sector faces animal welfare crisis
“The well-documented lack of enforcement of the EU Pigs Directive in most member states is a striking example of the inertia of national and EU regulators when strong economic interests are perceived to clash with animal welfare. On surgical castration, currently not covered by this Directive, voluntary commitments have clearly failed. Too little has happened since stakeholders signed the Brussels Declaration in 2010 and committed to phasing out surgical pig castration. Seven years later, those commitments are still little more than good intentions. But there is no excuse for waiting longer: routine painful husbandry procedures must disappear, and pigs must be provided with better care”. Said Jeppe Kofod MEP, S&D Group, who opened the exhibition.
With a new multimedia exhibition in the European Parliament this week, Eurogroup for Animals is ringing the alarm bell on over 20 years of systematic violations of European pig welfare legislation. Millions of European piglets have their tails routinely cut or burned off, their teeth clipped or ground away, and the males are painfully castrated. In most member states pigs are also raised in barren, overcrowded conditions, without any possibility to carry out natural behaviours.
For the first time in the European Parliament, this exhibition entitled “Ending Pig Pain: working towards a more humane pig industry in the EU”, allows visitors to observe a series of striking artistic photographs of pigs in different farming systems in Europe, and to immerse themselves into the shocking reality of an industrial pig farm in Italy through a virtual reality experience.
The inauguration on 12 September warmly welcomed EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis who tried for himself the virtual reality experience. Several MEPs also took part, including Sirpa Pietikainen, President of the Intergroup for the Welfare and Conservation of Animals.
The exhibition showcases Eurogroup for Animals’ 2017 flagship campaign End PigPain, which calls on national agricultural ministers to stop the routine pain caused to pigs reared for meat in the EU, ensure the enforcement of the EU Pigs Directive, and ultimately support an EU ban on surgical castration by 2024.  The campaign builds on the 2016 Eurobarometer survey, where a staggering 94 percent of European citizens believe that better protecting the welfare of farm animals is important. 
According to Dr. Elena Nalon, veterinarian and Farm Animals Programme Leader at Eurogroup for Animals, ‘‘Millions of European piglets still routinely suffer from unnecessary surgical procedures without pain relief. This goes against veterinary good practice, and in the case of tail docking and tooth clipping, it also goes against EU laws. Not to mention the barren conditions, the boredom, the misery that pigs endure in industrial farms during their lives. It’s time to admit that European animal welfare legislation is to all effects failing to protect farm animals.” She added, ‘‘we need to change this system. Firstly, by enforcing existing laws, and secondly by reconsidering how we treat sentient beings in the farming industry. Now is the time for the EU to really show leadership.’’
Roberto Bennati, Vice President of LAV, Eurogroup for Animals member and organiser of the virtual reality experience commented with: ‘‘LAV has conducted several important investigations on pig farming over the past year, with a focus on the inhumane practice of routine pig mutilations, a phenomenon that is particularly widespread in Italy. Through our 360 degrees virtual reality experience, viewers can enter into a typical industrial pig farm and see for themselves the degree of unnecessary suffering that these intelligent and sensitive animals have to endure. Once seen, this is something that cannot be forgotten, and we are certain that this exhibition will stimulate concrete actions to End Pig Pain.”
The multimedia exhibition, hosted by Jeppe Kofod MEP (S&D Group) with the Intergroup for the Welfare and Conservation of Animals, Eurogroup and LAV is open until 14 September.