The dilemmas of un-cut tails
Four years ago I was present when our former Minister of Agriculture, Sharon Dijksma, signed the ‘Declaration of Dalfsen’. In this declaration pig farmers came to an agreement with the government and the Dutch Animal Protection Society on the road of how to responsibly keep pigs with long, un-cut tails. Deliberately, no date was set after which tail-cutting would be banned, as we all didn’t know how to do it and how long it would take us to see some progress.
Prohibition date tail-cutting still unknown
During the declaration’s implementation phase several political parties have tried to persuade the minister to set prohibition date anyway, but without success. She complied with the agreed roadmap and didn’t want to set a final date. However, the pressure remains, even from Brussels. They are already looking at the member states as to how they are dealing with a future ban on tail-cutting; i.e. what are the pig farmers and their consultants already doing to ensure tail-cutting is not necessary anymore.
Demonstration project long tails
After signing the declaration, the Steering group Tails commissioned a demonstration project at the Swine Innovation Centre (VIC Sterksel). The project’s objective was to explore the possibilities with only minimum adjustments of keeping the tail intact, and what this would take. It also had to develop a safety net in case of biting outbreaks, and thereafter to initiate a network of pig farmers.
VIC takes own responsibility
At VIC Sterksel we have been wondering whether – after the demonstration project had finished – we should continue with long tails. Our buyer doesn’t ask for it and it doesn’t show any added value.
Nevertheless, we want to proceed with long tail developments, keep on trying new things, and herewith enhance our knowledge and experience. We only do this with our commercial pigs; these are the pigs not involved in any research projects. And of course we’ll be more than happy to share our knowledge and experience when needed. A student of the local HAS University of Applied Sciences has already been setting up an internal monitoring project for this purpose. We plan to start our tail exercise with 10 % of the commercial pigs.
I’m convinced much still has to be done before we can leave all our pig tails intact. But at the same time I’m also sure this moment will come. Sooner or later, the day will come after which tail-cutting is forbidden. This is why I strongly believe we at VIC Sterksel have to take our own responsibility to keep practising with long tails. Whenever the cutting ban comes, we’ll be prepared!
Theo Duteweerd, manager VIC Sterksel
More information: www.vicsterksel.nl