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What are the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme standards for pigs?

Through the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme the RSPCA works closely with farmers committed to raising pigs to higher animal welfare standards. Since releasing our first animal welfare standards for pigs in 2009, more than 1.5 million pigs have benefitted from better conditions on farm.

Pigs on RSPCA Approved farms have the space to move, forage, socialise and explore. Whether raised indoors or with access to the outdoors, there’s a focus on providing for pigs’ behavioural and physical needs. Sow stalls and traditional farrowing crates are not allowed under the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme.

The RSPCA Approves both well-managed extensive outdoor housing systems and enhanced indoor environments. Only farming systems that cater for the behavioural needs of the pigs, as well as their physical needs, can be part of the Approved Farming Scheme. The standards cover the breeding, rearing, handling, transport and slaughter of pigs.

Some of the requirements in the standards for pig housing and production are:

  • Intensive confinement systems, such as single stalls and traditional farrowing crates, are not allowed.
  • Pigs must be provided with:
    • shelter and protection from the weather
    • ventilation and light levels that provide for their comfort and health
    • sufficient bedding to avoid discomfort
    • space to allow exercise, exploration, social behaviour and lying/sleeping, and to avoid aggressive encounters
    • adequate clean water and nutritious food
    • feeding arrangements that allow them to avoid being bullied by other pigs
    • materials to use for foraging
    • environmental enrichment, such as rooting areas, wallows and toys; all pigs housed outdoors must have wallows.
  • Female pigs must reach a minimum age before they can be mated, and pens used for mating must have enough space and a non-slip floor.
  • A maximum stocking density (that is, a maximum number of animals per square metre of floor space or open ground) is set, to avoid overcrowding.
  • Handling systems (such as yards, races and pens) must allow easy management, and the pigs must be humanely acclimatised to the methods used to contain them.
  • Group size and compatibility of the pigs must be carefully managed to avoid bullying.
  • Farrowing sows (that is, sows about to give birth and those with litters of piglets) must have a minimum amount of space, bedding material to allow nest building, and separate areas for feeding and dunging. A protected zone and/or bedding must be provided to protect the piglets from being crushed by the sow.
  • Surgical husbandry procedures must be approved by RSPCA, unless they are carried out by a vet as part of urgent treatment.
  • Nose-ringing is not allowed.
  • A veterinary health plan must be used to record details of health regimes (such as vaccinations) and other health-related events.
  • All pigs must be inspected daily for signs of ill health or behaviour problems, and veterinary attention must be provided promptly if it is needed.
  • Stock workers must be skilled, competent and trained in pig handling.
  • Conditions for handling and transport must be considerate and humane, for example:
    • travelling and waiting times must be minimised
    • pigs are not to be transported in the heat of the day
    • electric goads are not permitted to encourage pigs to move
    • precautions must be taken to avoid aggression between unfamiliar pigs
    • noise should be minimised during handling and loading
    • drinking water must be available to the pigs up until the time of transport.
  • Pigs may not be sold for slaughter through a saleyard but are to be taken directly from the farm to the abattoir, and they should be slaughtered as close as possible to the farm.
  • A number of conditions must be met at the abattoir, during holding, handling and humane slaughter of the pigs. Only abattoirs that have been inspected and approved by an RSPCA pig production assessor may be used.
  • Careful records must be kept of management conditions and any health problems, and these records must be made available to the RSPCA. Data reports on production, mortality and general herd condition must be submitted to the RSPCA every two months.
  • Farms must allow regular inspections (at least every 6 months) by RSPCA pig production assessors to ensure that the standards are being observed.

To learn more about the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme or to download the Standard visit our website.

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Updated on October 6, 2022
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