Producers urged to familiarise themselves with new Pig Welfare Code

The new Code of Practice for the Welfare of Pigs in England came into force on March 1.

All pig producers are being urged to download and read the document, which  is Defra’s interpretation of existing welfare legislation and is designed to help keepers maintain the standards required to comply with it.

It sets out enhanced guidance in a number of areas, including:

  • Improved practices on how to prevent tail biting, with a focus on avoiding the need to dock pigs’ tails
  • Detailed guidance on enrichment attributes and acceptable combinations that should be used
  • Greater emphasis on record keeping, especially related to tail biting incidence, prevention measures and proactive action taken, including a requirement to record light levels and monitor environmental gasses
  • Defra’s intention to move towards a future where farrowing crates are no longer needed and advice on free farrowing pens
  • Greater focus on correct handling procedures for pigs.

You can view the Code here

A Defra spokesperson said the updated Code, which replaces the 2003 version, would ‘ensure farmers know how to practice good standards of stockmanship, in line with the most recent scientific and veterinary advice’.

“This is a key step in strengthening our pig welfare standards in the UK. Although it is not an offence to breach a code of practice, this can be used as supporting evidence in court when there are breaches of animal welfare laws.

“Pigs are inquisitive, social animals and adapt well to different environments. Nevertheless, it’s vital that all operational livestock farms, regardless of their size or scale, must meet our high standards and comply with the robust animal health and welfare legislation.”

There is no official transition period, but NPA senior policy adviser Rebecca Veale said the association and the Pig Veterinary Society (PVS) were meeting Defra soon to discuss how it will interpret the Code and ‘transition periods for producers to make any necessary changes in order to meet the Code’s requirements’.

“The Code is the Government’s interpretation of the law. Therefore, producers must comply with it – we urge all producers to download, read and understand the Code,” she added.


The draft Code was published in September 2019, but has been through a lengthy parliamentary process, delayed by the election, before becoming law.

It was developed in consultation with the APHA, the NPA and other industry bodies as well as welfare NGO’s (RSPCA and CIWF), before final sign off by the Farm Animal Welfare Committee (now AWC – the Animal Welfare Committee).

Welfare codes are statutory and owners and keepers of pigs are required by law to be familiar with, and have access to, the relevant code.

Defra’s Animal and Plant Health Agency conduct inspections on farms to check that the animal welfare standards are being met.

When inspecting against the codes and the law, APHA advise farmers on achieving compliance. If appropriate, legal action will be taken. Compliance or not with the provisions in a code of practice can be used as supporting evidence in cases which go to court.

The Code applies to England only, although devolved administrations will aim to align their new codes as closely as possible to Defra’s.

The NPA will be discussing the Code’s requirements at its Spring Regional meetings. See the NPA site for dates.

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Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.