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Thursday 30th January 2003
Row breaks out over pig welfare rules
Pigs just wanna have fun...
New animal welfare rules mean that farmers must provide their pigs with "manipulable" materials.
Those who don't comply face big fines. But Defra is being accused of misinterpreting the EU directive and trivialising the issue.
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Pigs could be given footballs or even chains to play with under new animal welfare regulations.

Farmers are to be told that they must put "manipulable" materials in sties to promote the welfare of pigs under laws in force from 1st February 2003.

The regulations are based on veterinary advice which recommends putting objects such as footballs in stalls to help calm restless horses.

"For many years now vets have been suggesting that you put a football or something to kick around into the stall with a horse if it is restless," said a spokesman for the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

"Basically, the same is true for pigs. If you put in a football or you dangle a chain they could nose it around and play with it, it is helpful."

He said the regulations required all pigs to have access to a "sufficient quantity of manipulable materials".

"While straw and hay would do, obviously the use of a football or a chain would also do," he added.

Farmers who fail to follow the new regulations could be fined up to £2,500 but would not face a jail sentence.

Joyce D'Silva, chief executive of Compassion in World Farming, said: "With this announcement, Defra are completely trivialising animal welfare issues.

"The EU Directive on providing pigs with 'manipulable material' is a welfare measure designed to ensure they can carry out their natural rooting behaviour - instead of living on barren, concrete slatted floors.

"The intention is to provide pigs with materials like straw or mushroom compost to allow them to root - not basketballs as quoted by Defra.

"It is quite clear that there are people in Defra with little knowledge of pigs, apart from perhaps those they see in Hamleys toy shop.

"It is also a complete misinterpretation of the spirit - and almost certainly - the letter of the law. Compassion in World Farming is consulting its legal aid team regarding further action."

Jim Dougal, head of the European Commission in the UK, said: "If the UK wants to tell farmers that they should supply toys for their pigs, that is a matter for them.

"The EU legislation says pigs should have access to such things as straw, hay, wood, sawdust, compost or peat. There is no mention of toys in the EU directive."

Animal Welfare Minister Elliot Morley said: "Like many Euro myths, to suggest farmers are being ordered to give pigs toys is not true.

"Although it sounds amusing, there is a serious point to animal welfare behind the new pig directive which requires animals to have access to manipulable materials.

"This and other forms of environmental enrichment are examples of good management and it is already included in industry-run quality assurance schemes which farmers have applied for many years."

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