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EU criticises the Netherlands mercilessly for its painful pig tail-docking

6 January 2018 – In the Netherlands, almost 99.5% of all piglets routinely get part of their tail docked while this is in fact prohibited by European law. Vets issue standard certificates to give permission for tail-docking and the Dutch method, where the sector in particular should deal with the problem, turns out to not work at all. This is evident from a devastating inspection report of the European Commission that was published in January of this year.

The Dutch Party for the Animals has been drawing attention to this type of animal suffering for years. For example,  a majority of the Dutch Lower House carried a motion of the Party for the Animals in 2014 to put a definite end to the very painful docking of piglets’ tails.

The animal protection organisation Compassion in World Farming Netherlands (CIWF) is now campaigning against this painful tail-docking and is calling on the Dutch Minister of Agriculture Schouten in a letter to immediately take action.

Geert Laugs, director of CIWF Netherlands:

“Mutilating animals to adjust them to an intolerable environment is one of the most extreme evils of the livestock industry. It is shocking to see that the Netherlands is not tackling this problem seriously at all. The Minister must take action NOW.”

Part of the piglets’ tails are docked to prevent them from biting each other’s tails out of boredom or frustration. Giving them good distraction equipment, such as straw, can stop the tail-biting to a great extent and is compulsory according to European Directives. The report shows that the Netherlands also fails to observe these.

No reduction of tail-docking at all

The report is highly critical about how the Netherlands deals with the problem of tail-biting and stopping to routinely dock piglets’ tails. The report establishes that European and national funds are not spent properly and that they have not led to any reduction of tail-docking until now. The Inspectors of the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority appear to have insufficient knowledge and fail to check if pig farms comply with European regulations. According to these regulations, tail-docking should not occur routinely but should only be done if pigs are wounded and after they have first tried to stop the tail-biting in another way, such as by improving the pigs’ living environment. The report, however, states that vets issue standard certificates that entitle pig farmers to dock all tails.

Tail-docking is unnecessary

Tail-biting is a problem that can be largely solved by giving pigs a better, more interesting living environment, for example with outdoor access or with enough good distraction equipment. Countries like Switzerland and Sweden, where tail-docking is prohibited, show that this is possible. In the Netherlands, organic pigs only are allowed to keep their tail. That is 0.5% of the entire pig population. The ‘Tail Steering Group’, consisting of members of the pig farming sector and the government, said that they will come up with a new plan in 2019. The Netherlands is the fourth largest pig producer in Europe, keeping over 12 million pigs in stables.