The debate about welfare in livestock production has to address the balance between greater ethical consideration for animals and the realities of the market, related to consumers’ willingness to pay for foods from higher welfare systems. Throughout the production chain in the Danish pig industry, training and education programmes ensure that all those handling live pigs have a clear understanding of animal behaviour and are fully acquainted with correct procedures.
On the farm, ethical considerations coupled with consumer demands have led to many welfare initiatives, often the result of innovative research programmes undertaken by the industry. The development of group housing systems for pregnant sows, provision of showering systems and more comfortable non-slip floors, enabling access to rooting and nesting materials have all delivered better welfare for the animals.
The comfort of pigs during transport has been improved significantly with new design features introduced for lorries and transporters. Only specially trained drivers and certified hauliers are allowed to transport pigs.
At the abattoir, much has been done to improve welfare and reduce stress in the critical period just before slaughter. The majority of abattoirs now use a new lairage design with a ‘group stunning’ system, designed by the Danish Meat Research Institute. This major improvement has reduced stress to the animals with a corresponding benefit for meat quality.