Attitudes of Dutch Pig Farmers Towards Tail Biting and Tail Docking

M.B.M. Bracke, C.C. de Lauwere, S.M.M. Wind, J.J. Zonderland

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58 Citations (Scopus)


The Dutch policy objective of a fully sustainable livestock sector without mutilations by 2023 is not compatible with the routine practice of tail docking to minimize the risk of tail biting. To examine farmer attitudes towards docking, a telephone survey was conducted among 487 conventional and 33 organic Dutch pig farmers. “Biting” (of tails, ears, or limbs) was identified by the farmers as a main welfare problem in pig farming. About half of the farmers reported to have no tail biting problems in their own herd. When farmers did report problems, they most often reported figures between 1 and 5 % of the animals. High incidences of tail biting were anticipated when trying to keep undocked pigs. Enrichment materials used in the conventional sector included mainly chains (52–63 % of the farms) and hanging rubber or plastic balls (22–30 %). Straw, sawdust, or wood shavings was hardly provided in conventional pig farming (2–3 %), in contrast to organic farming (88–100 % of farms). Conventional pig farmers feel a curly tail is not very important for sustainable pig farming. They consider enrichment to be less effective and tail docking to be less stressful for them and their piglets than their organic colleagues do. Pig farmers identified climate as a main risk factor for tail biting as opposed to enrichment. The objective of reducing routine tail docking requires solutions for dealing with tail biting problems at the farm level. In this process, transfer of scientific knowledge about enrichment materials and other measures to prevent and cure tail biting is critical, as is a change in farmer attitudes and awareness of the moral issues involved
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)847-868
JournalJournal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • animal-welfare
  • semantic model
  • risk


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