HC Deb 08 July 2003 vol 408 cc672-3W
Mr. Prosser

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she is taking to ensure that pig farmers comply with Paragraph 4 of the Annex to Council Directive 91/630/EEC (as amended) to ensure that pigs are provided with straw or a similar natural material, rather than objects such as footballs and chains; and if she will make a statement. [119497]

Mr. Bradshaw

We have fully implemented the provision on environmental enrichment from Commission Directive 2001/93/EC in the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2003, which came into force on 14 February.

The Directive gives examples of materials suitable for environmental enrichment, rather than a prescriptive list. In terms of enrichment, the choice of material is secondary to whether it achieves the aim of enabling the pig to satisfy its need to manipulate and to investigate and thus help to reduce aggressive behaviour. Our new pig welfare code, which provides guidance on the Regulations, stresses that straw is an excellent material, but also gives advice to those farmers where straw is not a practical solution. Objects such as chains or footballs can only be used in conjunction with other manipulable materials or when changed on a weekly basis. When tail biting occurs the code requires that a full investigation is made and also recommends that the provision of environmental enrichment is reviewed and an action plan developed which should be incorporated into the farm animal health and welfare plan. This plan should in any case be revised annually by the farmer and his veterinary surgeon or other advisers.

It is the welfare of the pig that matters. If it is found that the material used does not allow the pigs to investigate and manipulate and the pigs are tail biting, then the farmer will need to find an alternative material.

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