Scientific Opinion concerning a Multifactorial approach on the use of animal and non-animal-based measures to assess the welfare of pigs
Pigs have a need for manipulable materials to satisfy a range of behavioural needs, which can be different in different classes of pig. When these needs are not met, a range of adverse welfare consequences result, one of these being an increased risk for tail-biting in weaners and rearing pigs. The ability to control the risk of tail-biting is essential when aiming to avoid tail-docking. Based on available scientific information this Opinion identifies the multiple interactions between risk factors, welfare consequences and animal and non-animal-based measures on the two subjects requested (i) the absence of functional manipulable materials, for pigs at different stages in life and (ii) tail-biting, for weaners and rearing pigs only. An attempt is made to quantify the relationships between the identified interactions by carrying out a statistical analysis of information from available databases, those being an international dataset collected using the Welfare Quality® protocol, which was not designed to evaluate risk factors for tail-biting and therefore, it had limitations in fitness for this analysis, and a large Finnish dataset with undocked pigs. Based on the current state of knowledge, the AHAW Panel proposes two simple tool-boxes for on farm use to assess (i) the functionality of the supplied manipulable material and (ii) the presence and strength of risk factors for tail biting. Both proposed tool-boxes include a combination of the most important resource-based and animal-based measures. Further development and validation of decision–support tools for customised farm assessment is strongly recommended and a proposal for harmonised data collection across the range of European farming circumstances is presented. A series of further recommendations are made by the AHAW Panel.