Animal Welfare Regulations for Swine Keeping in Israel: A Comparison with the EU Directive 120 of 2008

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Animal Welfare Regulations for Swine Keeping in Israel:
a Comparison with the EU Directive 120 of 2008 “Laying Down
Minimum Standards for the Protection of Pigs”
Pozzi, P.S.1* and Alborali, G.L.2
Veterinary Services and Animal Health, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Beit Dagan, Israel.
Animal Health Institute “IZS-LER”, Brescia, Italy.
* Corresponding author: Dr. P.S. Pozzi, DVM, ECPHM, Veterinary Services and Animal Health, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. POB 12,
Beit Dagan 5025001, Israel. Tel. (+972) 50-6243951; Fax. (+972) 3-9681795, Email:
In February 2015, Israel approved the new Animal Welfare Law – Animal Protection – “Regulations for
Swine Keeping for Agricultural Purposes”, which was implemented since May 2015. In comparison with
European Union (EU) Legislation on swine protection (Council Directive 2008/120/EC of 18 December
2008), Israeli Regulations are ameliorative in terms of reduction of days in insemination stalls for gilts and
sows; reduction of days in restraint during lactation; available floor area to each animal; pain management
and relief in the course of castration, tail docking and corner-teeth clipping.
Keywords: Pigs; Surfaces; Stalls; Farrowing; Castration; Tail; Teeth; Pain; Analgesia.
In September 2012 The Veterinary Services and Animal
Health of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development
of Israel issued specific “Guidelines for Swine Keeping” (referred to as the “Guidelines”), which entered into force in
January 2013 (1). The purpose of the Guidelines was to immediately start the standardization of minimal requirements
for pig welfare along with the completion of the legislative
process for the approval of a specific Law by the Parliament
(The Knesset). The new “Animal Welfare Law – Animal
Protection – Regulations for Swine Keeping for Agricultural
Purposes, 2015” (the Regulations) was, in fact, then approved
in February 2015 and entered into force in May 2015 (2).
General characteristics of swine farming in Israel have
been already detailed (1). With respect to the European
Union (EU) Council Directive 2008/120/EC of 18
December 2008 “Laying down minimum standards for the
protection of pigs” (3) (the EU Directive), the Regulations
ameliorate some parameters in swine farming for agricultural
Pozzi, P.S.
March 2016.indb 10
purposes and/or meat supply. These ameliorations relate to
stocking density of animals; days of restraint for breeders
at insemination and after farrowing; analgesic treatments
at tail-docking, castration and corner-teeth clipping; fibers
supplementation to gestating sows; air quality; light intensity
and veterinary supervision.
The purpose of this communication is to highlight these
ameliorations and provide the technical background for the
changes with respect to the EU Directive.
Comparison of key parameters of the Regulations
with respect to EU Directive
In order to help the reader, the order of the EU Directive
articles, as laid down, has been followed:
Article 3a. The unobstructed floor area available for rearing pigs, with the exception of gilts and breeders.
Table 1 illustrates the minimal surfaces requirements for
rearing pigs from weaning to end of fattening period, according to body weight (b.w.) and to floor type.
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Table 1: Available surfaces for rearing pigs according to
body weight (kg)
Table 2: Available surfaces for gilts and sows keeping according to
group size and floor type.
The Regulations allow pigs a larger available area and, in
case of continuous floor, the requirement is of a further 15%
surface area (or 15% reduction in stock density).The reason
for this is that pigs have the propensity to destine part of the
floor as a defecation area (4), by so doing reducing the effectively the available clean and/or dry space for laying down,
especially if cleaning is not carried out frequently enough.
Article 3b. The unobstructed floor area available to each
gilt after service and to each sow.
Table 2 illustrates the minimal surface requirements for
gilts and sows holding, according to group size and according
to floor type.
Also for breeders a larger space allocation is considered
when breeders are kept on full/continuous floor, in order to
destine part of the floor as a defecation area.
Article 3:4. Sows and gilts kept in groups after
The use of insemination stalls is highly controversial: In
the past, in many countries it was considered legal to keep
sows and gilts in insemination/pregnancy stalls for almost all
the entire duration of the pregnancy, and then bring them
to the farrowing unit around one week before the expected
farrowing date. In The Netherlands (5, 6) sows and gilts
can be kept in insemination stalls only up to 4 days after
service, in Switzerland (7) up to 10 days in total. In UK,
Sweden, Finland (6), and Norway (8), the use of insemination
stalls is forbidden: Sows and gilts should always be housed
in groups, except at farrowing. According to EU Directive,
breeders should be kept in group starting 28 days after service
whereas Israeli Regulations allow isolation of sows and gilts,
in insemination stalls, only for one week and, in any case, no
longer than 48 hours after last insemination.
Regarding isolation of sows and the use of restraint, the
Israeli Regulations also limit the restraint period, after farrowing and during lactation, to two weeks only. Starting on
the 14th day after farrowing, lactating sows should be released
from restraint and kept loose. The rationale for this lies in the
fact that if restraint is considered as a tool to prevent piglets
being crushed by the sow, crushing is mainly concentrated in
the first 1-3 days after farrowing, and mainly under conditions
in which piglets cannot find a resting area warm enough. The
increased risk of crushing in a cold environmental situation
may depend on the fact that the piglets during their first
day are weakened by the cool temperatures in the pen; also
piglet which spend almost all their time at the sows teat are
more likely to be crushed (9, 10). In case of sow restraint
at farrowing, recommendations given in Denmark are for
at least a larger space accommodation for the sow: 90×210
cm (11). Sows restraint at farrowing is already forbidden in
Sweden (6), Norway (8) and Switzerland (7). Loose-housing
(11) after a restraint period limited only to the first days
after farrowing might be a feasible alternative in order to
improve welfare under intensive production conditions (12).
Loose-housing may be achieved in the same farrowing pen,
by simply opening a section of the restraint, or moving sow
and piglets to a pen without restraint at all. In the latter case,
the pen can accommodate more than one sow with their
offspring. Under any of these cases there must be a means of
protecting the piglets by providing mechanisms such as side
rails or similar devises. Group lactation has been already tried
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in different countries, with no adverse reactions on piglets’
performances (13). In case of group lactation, a general recommendation given to farmers is not to exceed 3-4 sows per
pen, as in typical social behavior of undomesticated swine
(14), or free-range swine (4) and their offspring. The minimal
space allowance for each sow/offspring is 4 square meters, as
minimal allowance in case of individual farrowing unit (2).
Figure 1 illustrates different types of loose housing of
lactating sows at 14th day after farrowing.
Article 3:6. Sows and gilts kept in groups are fed using
a system which ensures that each individual can obtain sufficient food:
Israeli Regulations: Adequate trough space should be
provided to ensure that all pigs can receive their feed allocation at the same time. In particular, pregnant sows and gilts,
are almost always fed at rationed feed level, where a through
space of 40 cm for each head is required (7). This trough
space allowance ensures feeding of all the animals in groups
at same time and it minimizes competition. Furthermore,
feed shall be served exclusively in troughs which are clean
from any remains of spoiled or moldy feed; do not contain
any secretions or waste to a reasonable extent considering the
circumstances. Feeding directly on the floor is not allowed
any longer.
Figure 1: Examples of loose sows housing in Israel.
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Article 3:7. Pregnant sows and gilts are given a sufficient
quantity of bulky or high-fiber feed.
Israeli Regulations require a 10% content in fibers, while
the EU Directive requests remains vague, requiring “a sufficient quantity of bulky or high-fiber food”. Germany specifies
the request of at least 200 gram of fibers/head/day (6); The
Netherlands 250 g/day (5). Considering an average of 4 to
6% fibers in a daily diet of 3.0 – 3.5 kg feed, 10% represents
at least 300 g fibers/day. Farmers have two possibilities of
complying with the Regulations: either modifying the feedformula to include 10% fiber or integrating the difference
(around 100 – 150g) with a quasi-fibers-only feed.
Article 6. The person attending to the animals has received
instructions and guidance on the relevant provisions of Article
3 (crowding of animals) and Annex I (General Conditions and
Specific Provisions for Various Categories of Pigs).
Israeli Regulations require that the person responsible
for the farm has enough knowledge in pig farming, care,
feeding, behavior and ability to identify signs of distress and
diseases; furthermore all the workers should be instructed,
by the responsible person or by the owner of the farm, relative to the contents of the Regulations. Workers responsible
for tail docking, teeth clipping and castration must undergo
an examination and receive a specific authorization by the
Veterinary Services to perform these operations (2, 3, 15).
Annex 1, I, 2: Pigs must be kept under light conditions
with an intensity of at least 40 lux for a minimum period of
eight hours per day.
For lighting, as in Austria, Belgium and Germany, Israeli
Regulations require day light access through at least 3% of
walls or roofs (transparent or semi-transparent panels) (6) as
an alternative to (artificial) lighting of at least 40 lux.
Annex 1, I, 7: Access to fresh water. EU Directive requests access to fresh water starting from two weeks of age.
Similar to Austria, Germany and Sweden (6), Israeli
Regulations require that all pigs shall have free access to
drinking water, regardless their age. Nipples for piglets, different from those for the sow, must be installed also in farrowing
pens. After weaning, the number of nipples should be at least
one for every 15 pigs. The definition of “drinking water” is
according to the Public Health Ordinance –“Sanitary Quality
of Drinking Water” – 5734 – 1974, which means quality
drinkable water.
Annex 1, I, 8: Procedures resulting in damage to or the
loss of a sensitive part of the body.
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Israeli Regulations clearly define these procedures are “mutilations”, and only tail docking, teeth clipping or grinding and
(males) castration are allowed. Regulations demand for the use
of analgesia and pain reduction during the implementation of
these mutilations. Pain control and reduction are subject to two
different protocols according to the age of piglets:
–– Until 7 days of age: The piglet should be treated with
prolonged analgesia, with a pharmaceutical product specifically licensed for this use. Local (16) or International
labeling (17) are both acceptable. As of 03/2016,
Meloxicam is the only active principle authorized, and
compulsory “first choice” for pain relief in piglets during
castration procedure (16).
–– Castration after 7th day of age is feasible only if the
veterinary surgeon of the farm decides to postpone the
procedures, due to the health status of the piglets. In such
a case, piglet should be previously treated with a local
anesthetic (Lidocaine or similar (15) by the veterinary
surgeon (16), and with prolonged analgesia, as above indicated for younger piglets. Use of analgesics in castration
after the 7th day of age is in line with EC Directive at
Annex 1,I,8 – “piglets older than 7 days”.
Other procedures resulting in live tissues damage or loss,
like identification through ear cutting or hot-branding, are
prohibited. In deep bedding farms (straw, sawdust, etc.) tail
docking and teeth reduction are any way prohibited; only one
farm in Israel producing laboratory-destined pigs uses deep
bedding (sawdust).
Annex 1, II, C, specific provisions for piglets:
Israeli regulations require a minimal temperature of 25°C
in the resting area of the piglets in the farrowing pen for the
whole lactating period. The rationale of the request is to reduce
the propensity of piglets to seek the sow as a source of heat,
and in so doing increasing the risk for crushing by the sow (9).
Annex 1, II, D, specific provisions for weaners:
Israeli regulations require the minimal temperature of
24°C in the resting area of the piglets in the weaning pen for
at least one week after weaning (18).
Relative to other requirements for air quality, ventilation
conditions, the EU Directive is vague and defers the issue as
to when “more detailed requirements have to be established”
(EU Directive; Whereas, 3). For air quality, as in Sweden (6),
Israeli Regulations require that maximum levels of some
gases shall not exceed specific levels: for NH3: 10 ppm; for
CO2: 3000 ppm; for N2S: 2.5 ppm.
Pig Welfare Legislation in Israel
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For ventilation, excluding the criteria already indicated
for suckling and weaning piglets, Israeli regulations require
that if the temperature has exceeded 27°C, the ventilation or
sprinklers systems shall be activated. One of the problems of
some Israeli farms is that they are not connected to electricity
system, so that there is no potential for mechanical ventilation. In this case, propositions are given (16) for minimal size
of windows opening (at least on two sides of the building)
and air flow direction, assuming:
–– a minimal requirement of 5-6 m3/ min of air-flow/100 kg
body weight (b.w.) (18, 19 modified ) at environmental
temperature exceeding 27°C
–– a minimal air flow of 38 m3 / min through 1 square meter
window at climatic conditions of “puff of wind” of 5 km/
hour and up to more than 200 m3 / min through 1 square
meter window at climatic conditions of “strong wind” of
more than 30 km/hour.
Despite the fact that the swine population in Israel may be
considered small in respect to other western countries (only
200,000 slaughtered heads per year), nevertheless this animal
population also deserves minimal legal standards of living,
especially in terms of crowding reduction, freedom of movement for sows, environmental and air quality, pain relief in
the course of necessary interventions on live tissues and the
avoidance of unnecessary mutilations.
The Israeli regulations, implemented since May 2015,
are largely inspired by the EU Directive 120 of 2008, but
also include some improvements with respect to the EU
Directive. These improvements include larger space availability (or lower crowding); further reduction of days of individual confinement of sows and in conditions of movements
restrictions; precise air quality parameters; compulsory use of
pain-killers during castration, tail docking and teeth clipping;
audit and approval for workers involved in these operations
and compulsory veterinary assistance.
Taking into account some of these improvements are singly implemented in individual countries, the authors believe
that these ameliorative conditions should be considered as a
whole and implemented altogether in advanced intensive pigs
farming with negligible or no impaction on production, but
with enormous impact of pig welfare and public acceptance
and praise.
Pozzi, P.S.
March 2016.indb 14
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Israel Journal of Veterinary Medicine  Vol. 71 (1)  March 2016
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