Wageningen Livestock Research is going to lead the first European Reference Centre for Animal Welfare, the European Commission has decided. The centre will focus on the welfare of pigs to start with.
Livestock Research is joining the Friedrich-Loeffler Institute (Germany) and the Department of Animal Science at the university of Aarhus (Denmark) in the consortium that will form the new reference centre on animal welfare. The first thing on the to-do list is to find an alternative to docking pigs’ tails, says project leader Hans Spoolder of Wageningen Livestock Research. ‘There is a law against routine tail-docking but it still happens. Neither farmers nor inspectors can see alternatives at the moment, because not docking tails leads to all kinds of health and welfare problems too.’
The centre is going to offer EU member states all kinds of technical and scientific support for monitoring compliance with the law. ‘Our aim is to help farmers and local inspectors get a grip on the problem. By identifying risk factors, for instance, so that inspectors can identify them better and give more specific advice on how to improve welfare. Because it is not all about handing out fines.’
The reference centre will form a network of national contact persons in all the EU member states. ‘On the one hand, we want to be in touch with people who have substantial expertise to contribute. And on the other hand, we want to build up a training network to find the best way of disseminating relevant information.’