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Rules on the protection of pigs

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Rules on the protection of pigs



Directive 2008/120/EC — minimum standards for the protection of pigs


It sets out minimum standards for the care and protection of pigs kept for breeding and fattening, in particular their need for space to display natural social behaviours, and rules for carrying out painful procedures such as castration and tail-docking.


  • Pigs should normally be kept in groups, and their accommodation must allow them to:
    • access a comfortable, adequately drained and clean area in which all the animals can lie down at the same time;
    • rest and get up normally;
    • see other pigs (unless the pig is ready to give birth);
    • have access to manipulable material, such as straw, hay and wood, to enable the pig's natural investigation behaviours.
  • Noise levels should be controlled and pigs kept in the light for a minimum of 8 hours a day.
  • Floors must be smooth but not slippery, and minimum unobstructed areas provided for animals, depending on their numbers and weight. Concrete slatted floors should respect minimum standards, while enhanced rules apply to adult breeding males and pregnant females.
  • Pigs must be fed at least once a day, and have access to food at the same time as others in the same group. Pigs over two weeks old must have access to fresh water.
  • Efforts should be made to minimise aggression and prevent fighting which goes beyond normal behaviour. Pigs should be able to escape and hide from other pigs.
  • Pregnant females must be treated against parasites if necessary, and given high-fibre and high-energy food, and suitable nesting material. An unobstructed area must be available for birthing, with means to protect the piglets and space for suckling. Piglets normally stay with the sow for at least 28 days unless the welfare or health of either would otherwise be adversely affected.
  • Non-essential surgical operations are banned, apart from:
    • shortening piglets’ corner teeth under specific conditions;
    • shortening boars’ tusks to prevent injuries to other animals or for safety reasons;
    • partial tail-docking, where there is evidence of behaviour such as tail-biting;
    • castration of male pigs by other means than tearing of tissues;
    • nose-ringing only when pigs are kept outdoors and where permitted under national legislation.
  • These procedures must be carried out by a vet or a trained and experienced person, with appropriate means and under hygienic conditions. Sick or injured pigs are to be placed in individual enclosures.
  • European Union (EU) countries must inspect a representative sample of holdings each year, while the European Commission may collaborate in carrying out spot checks.


This codified version (Directive 2008/120/EC) is a new act containing the original act (Directive 91/630/EEC) and its subsequent amendments. It has applied since 10 March 2009. EU countries had to incorporate Directive 91/630/EEC into national law by 1 January 1994.


For more information, see:


Council Directive 2008/120/EC of 18 December 2008 laying down minimum standards for the protection of pigs (Codified version) (OJ L 47, 18.2.2009, pp. 5–13)

last update 30.01.2017