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Protection of pigs



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


It seeks to lay down minimum standards for the protection of pigs.


As well as laying down standards for the protection of pigs, the directive also lays down rules with regard to painful operations in particular: castration, caudal amputation (docking), the elimination of corner teeth, etc.


  • Minimum standards apply to all categories of pigs kept for rearing and fattening:
    • piglets (from birth to weaning);
    • weaners (from weaning to 10 weeks old);
    • fatteners (more than 10 weeks old);
    • sows and gilts (a female pig after puberty but has not given birth);
    • boars (male pigs after puberty, intended for breeding) and so on.
  • These animals are to be raised in groups, apart from some exceptions (farrowing sows, boars). Farmers must implement measures aimed at fulfilling basic needs and preventing aggression within the group. In particular, pigs must have permanent access to a sufficient quantity of enrichment material in order to stimulate exploratory behaviour.

Sows and gilts

  • if necessary, pregnant sows and gilts must be treated against parasites. Tethered sows and gilts has been prohibited since 1 January 2006.
  • One week before farrowing, sows and gilts can be isolated. An unobstructed area must be available for natural or assisted farrowing. Boxes must be equipped with piglet protection systems.

Piglets (unweaned)

Piglets cannot be weaned from the sow before they are 28 days old unless the welfare or health of the dam or the piglet would otherwise be harmed.

Weaned piglets and rearing pigs

  • Measures must be taken to ensure that the animals do not fight.
  • Pigs are to be kept in groups and must not be mixed (except before weaning or during the week following weaning, if necessary).
  • Aggressive animals are to be kept away from the group (as are injured animals).
  • Tranquilising medicaments are only to be used to facilitate mixing in exceptional conditions and after consultation with a veterinarian.

Painful operations on animals

  • A veterinarian or ‘carer’ trained in aspects relating to animal welfare is authorised to carry out the following:
    • reduction of piglets’ corner teeth;
    • docking of tails (before the seventh day of life or after this age if carried out by a veterinarian and under anaesthesia and with additional prolonged analgesia);
    • castration of males (before the seventh day of life or after this age if carried out by a veterinarian and under anaesthesia and with additional prolonged analgesia);
    • nose-ringing in outdoor husbandry systems.
  • The docking of tails or the reduction of corner teeth must not be carried out routinely but only where there is evidence that injury to sows’ teats or to other pigs’ ears or tails has occurred. Before carrying out these procedures, other measures must be taken to prevent tail biting and other vices, taking into account environment and stocking densities. For this reason, inadequate environmental conditions or management systems must be changed.


Sick or injured pigs are to be placed in individual enclosures.


The directive provides for standards concerning feeding in ‘sufficient quantity’ and ‘permanent’ access to drinking water. All pigs must have access to food at the same time as other animals in the group. Animals must be fed at least once a day.


  • Standards concerning floor area are set according to the weight of the animal:
    • between 0.15 m2 for pigs weighing less than 10 kg and 1 m2 per animal over 110 kg;
    • 1.64 m2 per gilt;
    • 2.25 m2 per sow;
    • 6 m2 for a boar (10 m2 if the boar is used for natural services).
  • Some accommodation standards have only applied since 1 January 2013 (for buildings constructed before 2003 or after the date of accession to the EU).
  • Floors must be smooth but not slippery so as to prevent injury to the animals.
  • The lying area must be comfortable, clean and dry.


Continuous noise as loud as 85 dB is to be avoided. Light intensity is to be at least 40 lux for 8 hours.


  • EU countries must carry out inspections each year on a statistically representative sample.
  • The European Commission may send veterinary experts to make on-the-spot checks in the farms with the assistance of national inspectors.

Specific rules

EU countries may apply stricter rules on their own territory than those laid down in this directive. In this case, they must inform the Commission of any such measures beforehand.

Official controls regulation

Regulation (EU) 2017/625, the EU’s new legislation on the official controls of human food and animal feed, amends certain minor technical details of the directive. These changes will apply from 14 December 2019.


It has applied since 10 March 2009. The Directive 2008/120/EC is the codified version of Directive 91/630/EEC and its subsequent amendments. EU countries had to incorporate the original Directive 91/630/EEC into national law by 1994 (and its amendments by 2003).


For more information, see:

  • Pigs (European Commission).


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)


Regulation (EU) 2017/625 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2017 on official controls and other official activities performed to ensure the application of food and feed law, rules on animal health and welfare, plant health and plant protection products, amending Regulations (EC) No 999/2001, (EC) No 396/2005, (EC) No 1069/2009, (EC) No 1107/2009, (EU) No 1151/2012, (EU) No 652/2014, (EU) 2016/429 and (EU) 2016/2031 of the European Parliament and of the Council, Council Regulations (EC) No 1/2005 and (EC) No 1099/2009 and Council Directives 98/58/EC, 1999/74/EC, 2007/43/EC, 2008/119/EC and 2008/120/EC, and repealing Regulations (EC) No 854/2004 and (EC) No 882/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council, Council Directives 89/608/EEC, 89/662/EEC, 90/425/EEC, 91/496/EEC, 96/23/EC, 96/93/EC and 97/78/EC and Council Decision 92/438/EEC (Official Controls Regulation) (OJ L 95, 7.4.2017, pp. 1–142)

Successive amendments to Regulation (EU) 2017/625 have been incorporated into the original document. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

last update 23.10.2017