From December 2015, pig farmers in the United Kingdom who participate in the Freedom Foods assurance scheme will have to comply with new standards or risk losing this high-welfare status.
Freedom Food, the farm assurance and food labeling scheme of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty Animals (RSPCA), is updating its welfare standards for pigs with new requirements for indoor breeding units in relation to space, flooring and bedding/enrichment materials.
Existing Freedom Food members have until December 2, 2015, to meet the new standards.
Under the new standards, a bedded lying area or nest area is required that measures at least 2.8m² and the minimum total pen size — including the lying or nest area — must be at least 5m². Any feeding stall provided must be in addition to the minimum total pen size.
Kate Parkes, senior scientific officer in the RSPCA’s farm animals department, said: “Research indicates that 2.8m² is the minimum space required for the sow to lie down laterally and for parturition.
“However, providing more space than this is key; an inability to separate the dunging area from the lying or nest area or feeding area is likely to result in poor hygiene and potential health issues.
“It could also lead to increased activity which could increase the risk of piglet crushing by the sow. Research indicates that a minimum of 5m² can satisfy these requirements as well as nest-site seeking behavior.”
Another change to the standards is the use of voluntary feeding stalls. They are permitted but equipment that could confine the sow for farrowing must not be present.
Also, where applicable, the creep area and lying or nest area must have a solid floor.
RSPCA is a registered charity in England, Wales and Scotland.