Improving pig welfare in Belgium

The following case study illustrates the type of consultancy service that Global Animal Welfare Assurance (GAWA) is able to offer certification schemes.

Certus, owned by the company Belpork, is a Belgian quality assurance scheme for pork which includes animal welfare standards.

The University of Bristol’s Dr Siobhan Mullan who is the project lead for the development of GAWA, along with the Soil Association and RSPCA Assured, two of the founding members of GAWA, carried out consultancy for Certus on how to improve their animal welfare standards.

This entailed evaluating the current standards for animal welfare in the Certus schemes, including comparison with other national and international standards. Following this, the team identified additional measures that could improve animal welfare and add increased value to the Certus system. This involved not only an analysis of their current standards but also a farm visit programme and a workshop with key Belpork stakeholders and employees.

In order to determine any additional welfare assessment measures to be collected as part of the Certus scheme, a second workshop was held to discuss potential changes. Following the outcomes of the workshop, an additional protocol was developed by the scheme with support from Dr Mullan.

Finally, training of Certus assessors on the new assessment measures was carried out by Dr Mullan and RSPCA Assured.

The outcome of this work was that the following welfare measures were incorporated into the Certus scheme:

  • Tail lesions (mild and severe) – assessed on all pigs in 5 pens on each farm. The results can provide guidance to assessors about the state of tail lesions on each farm, can instigate a conversation about prevention and treatment of tail biting and will provide an accurate evaluation of the prevalence of tail lesions in the scheme as a whole.

  • Enrichment use (and recording enrichment type) – assessed on all pigs in 5 pens on each farm. This provides an accurate estimation of the prevalence of enrichment use on both the individual farm and for the whole scheme. It can indicate to the inspector compliance with legislation on enrichment.

  • Pigs needing further care/pigs in hospital pens – assess the pigs in the observation pens and the hospital pen in detail for any requiring further care, as well as any others seen when inspecting the farm.

  • Mortality – assessed from farmer records.

Assessing these measures will help Certus assessors to determine the welfare level of pigs on each farm, thus potentially improving the health and quality of life of Belpork pigs – thanks to the advice and expertise of the GAWA team.