EU Pork Producers Defy Anti-Cruelty Law

Back in 2001, the European Union passed a law telling pig farmers that they must get rid of all their gestation crates by January 1, 2013, and replace them with group housing for pregnant sows. The factory farms had 12 years’ notice.

Most of them missed the deadline anyway.

Flagrantly breaking the law, producers in all but five EU countries are still using gestation crates. Gestation crates (or “sow stalls,” as they call them in Europe) are, as I described in Cruel Gestation Crates Are On Their Way Out,

small metal cages only two feet wide that prevent pregnant pigs from turning around and even lying down comfortably. Sows spend most of their adult lives in these crates as they are inseminated soon after they give birth and thus kept pregnant over four out of every five months. Gestation crates cripple pregnant pigs and cause obesity. The fumes and toxins produced from the concentration of so many animals in one space [who must urinate and defecate where they stand] sicken them (and the humans who “take care of” them). Pigs are smart animals, and the constant confinement, lack of activity or stimulation, and pain lead to neurotic behaviors like biting the bars of their cages over and over, or chewing on nothing.

Pork producers’ failure to obey the law seems to be a surprise to the responsible officials. Stewart Houston, chairman of the British Pig Executive, declared himself “flabbergasted” by the delay, according to Farmers Guardian. “We were amazed because we had been working with the commission all year on this and the messages we were getting was that compliance was much higher,” Houston said.

One has to wonder what the farmers were thinking, because if they had made the change in time, they would have been eligible for FREE MONEY! As if complying with the law and avoiding penalties and possible shut-downs wasn’t enough, the EU offered farmers subsidies of up to 60% of the cost of switching from gestation crates to group housing. And they still missed the deadline. It almost looks like they are flouting the law deliberately.

Whatever their motivations, as National Pig Association chairman Richard Longthorp said: “This makes a mockery of Europe’s animal welfare legislation.” As opposed to imprisonment in sow stalls, where they can only stand up and lie down, the new law would give pigs 2.25 square meters of space (about 24.22 square feet) each in a group environment. This is for animals whose “ideal” weight is 300-350 pounds — that is, after they have been genetically engineered to be far larger than is healthy for them (see photo). The EU law, should it ever be implemented, would allow pregnant sows to be locked into tiny farrowing crates five days before giving birth, and to be crated for the first four weeks of pregnancy. That is still no kind of life, but it would be better for the pigs’ welfare than the current system.

The ban, if it becomes reality, will affect over 13 million breeding sows.

Here is the list of the naughty and the nice — which countries are defying the ban and which are complying. These numbers are from the Farmers Guardian.

Less than 70% compliance: Cyprus (48%), Belgium (45), France (33),Germany (48), Ireland (57), Italy (69), Netherlands (63), Portugal (63).

70-90% compliance: Denmark (85%), Finland (73), Greece (83), Latvia (82), Malta (75), Poland (80), Slovenia (72), Spain (70).

90-99% compliance: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia.

100% compliance: Austria, Estonia, Luxembourg, Sweden, United Kingdom.

Related Stories:

Cruel Gestation Crates Are On Their Way Out

Burger King Phases Out Battery Cages and Gestation Crates

McDonalds Says No To Sow Stalls

Photo credit: Hemera


Amy L.
Amy L4 years ago

That is the biggest pig I have ever seen. Pigs are very smart animals - If even they were dumb they still deserve to to be treated with dignity and respect. My Uncle raised only a few pigs and what Christine J. says is the truth. There is no reason why they shouldn't all be raised humanely. I don't eat pork because of the industries inhumane treatment of the animals.

Jane B.
Jane B5 years ago

I thought that pic was awful too - have just found out its one of those pot-bellied pigs, but it doesn't look right at all!

Christine Jones
Christine J5 years ago

To Kit S. I know about piggeries. If the pigs have a good environment and enough space so that they don't go crazy, they will be excellent mothers to their piglets. A really good pig farmer I know provided clean, spacious pens in an airy, light-filled barn. He hung chains from the pens, and the pigs liked to toss them up and down, chew on them, and generally play with them. He even played them music, which they really enjoyed, and he never had a problem with their behaviour. It's so cruel to factory farm an animal and then when it naturally goes crazy and becomes vicious, confine it even more

Carrie Anne Brown

thanks for sharing

Mark Donners
Mark D5 years ago

modern "farmers" are mostly criminals and should be assumed to be guilty until proven otherwise. The guity ones should be imprisoned in crates for at least ten years and forbidden ever again from approaching animals.

Waheeda S.
Waheeda E5 years ago

Kudos to those 5 countries' farmers for doing the more inhumane thing.
Bring on the fines for the flouters of the law!

Lori U.
Lori Udenberg5 years ago

I think that all the farmers that did not comply should be shut down and made to spend time in a space equal to the size these sows are made live in.

Andrew C.
Andrew C5 years ago

Kudos to Austria, Estonia, Luxembourg, Sweden, and the United Kingdom for doing the right thing. As for the other countries, your treatment of these pigs is truly disgusting. Stiff penaties need to be handed out to those countries with poor compliance, not just a slap on the wrist.

Jacqueline Fonseca

@ Hope, the reason for GM was listed is because Monsanto is wanting to patent pig DNA.

Meat is Murder any way you look at it. You're eating another earthling and taking food out of the mouths of starving people to feed animals that they will never eat. We waste more in countries of affluence, while raping the world. When you eat animals that have been "raised" (sugar coated) in a torturous environment, you are eating the hurt, pain, suffering, and fear. The best and most efficient way to make this stop and end, IS TO STOP EATING THE FLESH OF OTHERS!!!!!

Kathryn Marsh
Kathryn Marsh5 years ago

Neil, I know what you mean but she used stock footage from a site that provides free images which are used by a lot of those who write for Care2. I checked it out and there actually weren't any images that would have been more suitable than that one if you wanted clean happy pig photos.

Kit, stressed sows will roll on top of their babies and kill them and will even eat them if they are sufficiently unhappy. Sufficiently stressed women will do the same. The same farmers who keep sows in gestation crates all their lives also cut the tails off piglets and cut off half their teeth so they won't bite each other's tails. This is something else that only happens if they are stressed. If sows are kept in big comfortable spaces, appropriately lit, with lots of bedding and plenty of space to move around, and for the piglets to move around out of the way, with access to the open air either on grass, or if that is inappropriate because of climate conditions well strawed yards, if growing pigs have access to toys, to material to root in, to bales to climb up and down on etc - in other words if they are allowed to exercise their considerable brains to entertain themselves - then the sows don't kill their babies and the growing youngsters don't bite each other's tails.
Pigs are highly social animals - they like to play with each other and with people. They also like to make their own beds in the morning, designate a latrine area and keep the rest of their environment clean etc.