Answer given by Ms A. Vassiliou on behalf of the Commission
The requirements for providing enrichment materials to pigs are laid down in Council Directive 2008/120/EC on the protection of pigs(1). Point 4 of Chapter I of the annex to the directive stipulates that pigs must have permanent access to a sufficient quantity of material to enable proper investigation and manipulation, such as straw, hay, wood, sawdust, mushroom compost, peat or a mixture of such, which does not compromise the health of the animals.
Providing appropriate foraging material, such as the ones listed in the directive, can be difficult in pig holdings with fully slatted floors unless there is automatic shredding in the waste disposal system. For this technical but also for economical reasons, chains, tyres, chewing sticks or balls have been used as enrichment materials by certain pig producers in several Member States.
Following a mandate from the Commission, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) issued five scientific opinions on the welfare of pigs between 2005 and 2007. The conclusions and recommendations of the opinions regarding fattening pigs(2) and tail docking(3) are quite clear on enrichment materials. Indeed the scientific opinion on fattening pigs states that since indestructible objects such as chains or tyres are not sufficient to provide for the manipulatory need of pigs, they may be used as supplement to destructible and rooting materials but not as a substitute for them. Furthermore the scientific opinion on tail docking states that tail biting is considered as an abnormal behaviour for which the major underlying motivation is the need to perform exploration and foraging behaviour. It concludes that there is little evidence that provision of toys such as chains, chewing sticks and balls can reduce the risk of tail biting.
In order to disseminate information on adequate enrichment materials and to promote better enforcement of EU legislation, the European Commission organised a specific workshop on pig welfare which was held on 17 November 2009 in Brussels and where best farming practices as well as the latest EFSA scientific opinions on pig welfare were presented to the main actors of the food chain from farmers to representatives of the retailing sector.
Scientific Opinion of the Panel on Animal Health and Welfare on a request from the Commission on Animal health and welfare in fattening pigs in relation to housing and husbandry. The EFSA Journal (2007) 564, 1-14.
Scientific Opinion of the Panel on Animal Health and Welfare on a request from the Commission on the risks associated with tail biting in pigs and possible means to reduce the need for tail docking considering the different housing and husbandry systems. The EFSA Journal (2007) 611.