Pig welfare gets the “political football” treatment in Denmark

Denmark’s food minister has been accused of hanging the country’s pig industry “out to dry” over a proposed change to the country’s stocking density, a move advanced by opposition parties ahead of next year’s Danish elections.

Part of a new agricultural package put forward by Denmark’s a centre-right coalition (VKO), the stocking proposal would see Danish agriculture moving into harmony with the rest of the EU in terms of the number of animals that can be kept in relation to how much land is available on which to spread the manure they produce.

Currently Danish farmers are allowed to have 1.4 livestock units per hectare, while VKO want that to be increased to the EU average of 1.7.

When the country’s food minister, Dan Jørgensen, suggested in response that such a move might damage welfare standards, he was roundly criticised by pig farming leader, Erik Larsen, who, among other things, is chairman of the Danish Pig Research Centre.

Asking what had happened to the minister’s short-term memory, Mr Larsen pointed out that as recently as March this year, they had stood “side by side” when signing a declaration to ensure significant animal welfare progress on Danish pig farms.  That is currently involving the industry and government in joint action to reduce piglet deaths in the farrowing house, seeking alternatives to castration and increasing efforts to stop tail-biting.

As a result, according to Mr Larsen, the Danish pig industry was already better than almost any other country on animal welfare issues. As such, he wasn’t amused that the minister had allowed the pig industry be to dragged into the “political game” which was already starting to be played between the various parties which are due to contest next year’s elections.

As for the commercial value to Danish pig farmers of a potential move from a 1.4 stocking rate to 1.7, Danish Pig Research Centre director, Claus Fertin, told Pig World that it could make the industry the equivalent of 50p a pig more profitable. 

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