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Evidence review and behavioural research involving both farmers and vets to investigate how to promote improved compliance with pig tail docking and environmental enrichment legislation: - AW0145

This project contributes to a key Defra priority of ensuring that the UK has high standards of animal welfare. It is focused on the high incidence of tail docking by pig farmers, which is a major animal welfare concern.
Currently, routine tail docking is not permitted under EU legislation. Tail docking should only be used as a last resort, after improvements to the pigs’ environment and management have proved ineffectual. However approximately 70% of finisher pigs in the UK have had their tails docked, as farmers often choose to dock tails to preclude tail biting outbreaks which can be severe and can cause mortality and carcase condemnation. There is a strong appetite within industry representative bodies to work with Defra to reduce incidence of tail docking both from an economic and animal welfare standpoint.
The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) have recently completed a short survey with UK farmers to try to improve its understanding of their perceptions of tail docking and tail biting. AHDB agreed to share the results of this high-level survey to inform our approach; preliminary analysis suggests that there is a low acceptance of tail biting among farmers in the UK, and a perception that tail biting is worse for welfare than tail docking.
The AHDB survey was a short, closed-ended question survey and so whilst it provides some useful initial insights, we need to explore these issues in greater detail to provide the in depth understanding of the behavioural and cost barriers that will be needed for evidence based policy making, and in particular, in order to design appropriate interventions to reduce tail docking behaviour. Furthermore, the AHDB research only covered the views of the farmers. To get a fuller understanding of the issue, we also need to seek the views of vets, who are the key drivers for change, as they allow farmers to routinely tail dock.
This project will include in depth interviews with both farmers and vets to explore perceptions of and acceptance of tail biting and tail docking, to investigate how vets are advising farmers, and to identify measures that might encourage farmers to reduce tail docking and when would be the best time/approach for such an intervention. The project will also explore the cost to farmers of tail biting, and the potential value of using an incentive based intervention.
AHDB are willing to work closely with Defra on this project and are currently considering making a financial contribution.
This project will contribute to the priority of having high standards of animal welfare, by helping to identify ways to encourage farmers to reduce tail docking.
1.In discussion with Defra, draft interview guides for interviews with farmers and vets to explore perceptions of and acceptance of tail biting and tail docking.
2.Recruit farmers and vets for interviews
3.Undertake in depth interviews with farmers and vets
4.Explore the cost to farmers of tail biting.
5.Provide recommendations on potential interventions that could improve compliance with pig tail docking legislation.
6.Project meeting with the Authority to discuss the results and review dissemination plans
7.Completion of final report (within one month of project completion or within 7 months following initiation date, whichever is sooner – to be completed once this has been determined)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2018

To: 2018

Cost: £54,770
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Fields of Study
Animal Welfare