Animal welfare organisation Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) has expressed concerns over member state compliance to the EU sow stall ban, as only 10 countries are expected to have made the transition by January 2013.
The organisation obtained data from the European Commission, saying that only the UK, Sweden, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Ireland, Germany, Estonia, Denmark, The Czech Republic and Bulgaria would be compliant by the deadline, meaning that 17 member states will still use stalls for pregnant sows after the ban comes into force.
CIWF chief policy advisor Peter Stevenson said: “This should set alarm bells ringing at the Commission and the 17 member states that are not going to comply with the ban. They need to get hold of the situation very quickly to stop this important step for animal welfare becoming a farce.”
The organisation pointed out that the ban should level the playing field for British farmers, who had to switch to group housing in 1999 and lost out on competitiveness as a result. But it added that it was very likely the UK would have to wait even longer for better trading conditions, as implementation could prove difficult.
“It’s unacceptable for so many countries to be behind schedule when they have known for a long time that these rules would be coming into force on 1 January. They need to take action now, both for the welfare of millions of pigs and to create a fairer market for UK farmers.
“The Commission needs to make it very clear that there will be significant consequences if they are still not in line by 2013,” added Stevenson.
CIWF added that Poland was among the worst in terms of number of farms (2,029) expected to be non-compliant on 1 January 2013, and that some countries, including Belgium, France and Portugal, were unable to provide detailed statistics.
The ban will make it illegal to keep sows in gestation crates after the first four weeks of pregnancy, or ‘service’, in the EU. In the UK, sows must be in group pens even during these first four weeks.