Animal-care and handling protocols have been thrust on European pork producers, not always with the best results for the animals. In an effort to address yet another such proposal by the European Commission to increase minimum space allowances for pigs in transport the Danish pork industry conducted a little research project of its own.

The Danes videotaped and monitored the impact of transporting pigs with a greater space allowance. They found that the extra space caused pigs to fight more, be thrown around, and it increased skin damage, having a negative affect on pig welfare. The Danish video will be made available to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the European Commission.

Representatives from Denmark, Britain, France, Belgium, Sweden, Holland and Finland stress that mortality levels during transport are “extremely low” and that changing the transport rules could hurt pig welfare.

The proposal to increase minimum space requirements from 0.35 square meters per 100 kg animal weight to 0.42 square meters is based on a report from European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare. The country representatives fear the commission’s current proposals are based on perception, not science, and argue that the report is incomplete and selective.

“If current legislation is policed and enforced then change is unnecessary,” says Stewart Houston, of the National Pig Association, “…we would prefer to see any changes be based on science rather than sentiment.”

It’s important for U.S. producers to note these types of activities in Europe because increasingly, similar issues are surfacing in the United States.