Straw, hay required for pigs under new UK welfare regulations

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New animal welfare regulations adopted in the United Kingdom require farmers to provide pigs with permanent access to such "environmentally enriching" materials as straw and hay. Violators face fines of up to 2,500 pounds per charge.

The UK's Welfare of Farmed Animals Regulations was amended as part of a European Union directive on pig welfare approved by Parliament in February. Listed in the directive are various materials intended to enable investigation and manipulation by the pigs—activities important to the animals' behavior.

"This and other forms of environmental enrichment are examples of good management and are already included in industry-run quality assurance schemes which have been applied for many years," Elliot Morley, Animal Welfare Minister, said.

The new regulations, which apply to all 15 EU member nations, also provide for minimum space allowances for sows and gilts, and an increase in the minimum weaning age from 21 to 28 days. Close confinement stalls for breeding sows have been banned in the UK since January 1999, but a EU-wide ban will go into effect in 2013.

European leaders recently reached an agreement to ban cosmetics testing on animals and marketing of animal-tested cosmetic products in the EU (see JAVMA, March 1, 2003, page 559). A complete ban on cosmetics testing on animals will follow in 2009, to allow time for alternatives to be developed and put into place.