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Welfare goals set

A new agreement for improving pig welfare standards has been reached between the Danish Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, Dan Jørgensen, and a wide range of organizations with an interest in Danish pig production. It is hoped that the agreement will also allow the Danish pig industry to support growth within the overall Danish economy. Due to the continuation of high levels of weaners exported from Denmark during 2013, pig meat exports declined over the year.

Following an initiative by Denmark’s recently appointed Minister for Food, Dan Jørgensen, a ‘Pig Welfare Summit’ was held during March and was attended by a wide range of stakeholder interests. These included Denmark’s leading animal welfare campaigners, Dyrenes Beskyttelse (Animal Protection) and Dyrenes Venner (Animals’ Friends), Landbrug & Fødevarer (Danish Agriculture & Food Council), representatives of Denmark’s veterinary profession as well as leading retailers and consumer groups.

The meeting concluded with the signing of a formal declaration, whose purpose was to ensure improved welfare for pigs, while also helping the Danish pig industry to realize its growth potential in the years ahead.

“We are delighted that the parties have succeeded in reaching a broad agreement, which will secure even higher pig welfare standards in Denmark. At the same time, it recognizes that Danish pig production should achieve the economic growth that Danish society wants. The agreement underpins our future work by finding solutions to some of the major challenges of pig production,” said Martin Merrild, DAFC Chairman.

Mr. Merrild said that the agreement is a natural extension of the important work on improved welfare that the industry, in partnership with scientists and the authorities, has been engaged in over a number of years.

The agreement will set specific targets, with immediate actions identified, in the following areas:

  • Improve survival rates among piglets
  • Encourage uptake of free-farrowing systems for sows – at least 10% of sows by 2020
  • Find alternatives to castration of male piglets without anaesthetic by 2018 latest
  • Reduce numbers of tail-docked piglets
  • Lower incidence of stomach ulcers in both sows and finishing pigs

In addition, a major project for new housing design will focus on welfare considerations. The meat industry and retail trade will also provide consumers with more information and greater choice of higher welfare products.

Martin Merrild continued, “It is only in the interests of our farmers that we continue to improve piglet survival rates and try to find sustainable solutions for a number of the challenges that pig production is facing. First and foremost, this will lead to higher welfare standards, but it’s also crucial that we producers are as skilled as possible at what we do so that in the long-term we can increase exports and protect the jobs of those employed in agriculture and food production.”

Erik Larsen, Chairman of the Danish Pig Research Centre, is another who views the agreement as a positive step along the road to improved welfare and competitiveness of Danish pig production.

”We’ve already come far in a number of areas. Levels of piglet mortality have fallen and we can see the effects of the work we’ve already done. Together with our partners in this agreement, we have high hopes that we can create even stronger pig production in Denmark, for which there is widespread support.”  

The new welfare agreement was widely reported in the trade press:

Danish pig production was virtually unchanged during 2013 at just over 29 million pigs, however, exports of weaners increased to 9.6 million heads. Exports of pig meat from Denmark fell to just over 1.9 million tonnes. Although sales to China, Russia and Poland increased, exports to the UK and most other EU markets declined.