Danes agree plan to improve pig welfare

A new agreement for improving pig welfare standards has been reached between the Danish Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, Dan Jørgensen, and organisations with an interest in pig production.

The agreement was reached at a recent Welfare Summit convened by the minister.

The organisations involved included Denmark’s leading animal welfare campaigners, Dyrenes Beskyttelse (Animal Protection) and Dyrenes Venner (Animals’ Friends), and Landbrug & Fødevarer (the Danish Agriculture & Food Council (DAFC)).

Representatives of Denmark’s veterinary profession, retailers and consumer groups were also signatories to the formal declaration, the terms of which will ensure improved welfare for pigs while helping the Danish pig industry to realise its growth potential in the years ahead.

“We’re delighted that the parties have succeeded in reaching a broad agreement, which will secure even higher pig welfare standards in Denmark,” DAFC chairman Martin Merrild said. “At the same time, it recognises that Danish pig production should achieve the economic growth that Danish society wants. The agreement underpins our future work by finding solutions to some of the major challenges of pig production.”

Mr Merrild said that the agreement was a natural extension of the important work on improved welfare that the industry, in partnership with scientists and the authorities, had been engaged in over a number of years.

The agreement will set specific targets, with immediate actions identified, in the following areas:

  • improve survival rates among piglets;
  • encourage uptake of free-farrowing systems for sows (at least 10% of sows by 2020);
  • find alternatives to castration of male piglets without anaesthetic by 2018 latest;
  • reduce numbers of tail-docked piglets; and
  • lower incidence of stomach ulcers in both sows and finishing pigs.

In addition, a major project for new housing design will focus on welfare considerations. The meat industry and retail trade will also provide consumers with more information and greater choice of higher welfare products.

“It is only in the interests of our farmers that we continue to improve piglet survival rates and try to find sustainable solutions for a number of the challenges that pig production is facing,” Martin Merrild added. “First and foremost, this will lead to higher welfare standards, but it’s also crucial that we producers are as skilled as possible at what we do so that in the long-term we can increase exports and protect the jobs of those employed in agriculture and food production.”

The chairman of the Danish Pig Research Centre, Erik Larsen, is another who views the agreement as a positive step along the road to improved welfare and competitiveness of Danish pig production.

“We’ve already come far in a number of areas,” he said. “Levels of piglet mortality have fallen and we can see the effects of the work we’ve already done. Together with our partners in this agreement, we’ve high hopes that we can create even stronger pig production in Denmark, for which there is widespread support.”

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