Sow stall ban comes into effect

Posted on the 3rd January 2013

On 1st January a new EU-wide ban on the use of sow stalls finally came into effect.

On 1st January a new EU-wide ban on the use of sow stalls finally came into effect. These tiny pens, which are used to house sows during their four-month-long pregnancies, are scarcely larger than the pigs themselves, have no bedding, give them no room to turn around and barely enough space to lie down. Their use has been outlawed in the UK since 1999, but they are still common in many countries, so the ban represents an improvement in the quality of life for millions of pigs.

However, it is believed that as many as 14 EU states have failed to meet the deadline and ensure all of their farms have complied with the ban. This is all the more shocking given that they have had eleven years notice to phase out the use of sow stalls.

Worse still is the fact that many other appalling practices are still permitted on pig farms in the UK. For example, the use of farrowing crates whilst sows give birth and nurse their piglets is still perfectly legal and commonplace, despite the crates being scarcely larger than the now banned sow stalls. Mutilations such as tail docking and teeth clipping, which are usually performed without anaesthetic, also occur on many British farms even though their ‘routine’ use is outlawed. Castration of male piglets, whilst rare in the UK, is still legal and is most commonly performed on organic farms where the pigs grow more slowly. Also legal is ‘ear notching’, a painful practice where part of a pig’s ear is removed in order to give it a permanent identifying marker, much like branding.

The EU sow stall ban is certainly a step in right direction, but it is clear that a great deal more work needs to be done to put a stop to the routine cruelty experienced by pigs and other farmed animals both in the UK and around the world.

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