Formalised review of environmental enrichment for pigs in relation to political decision making

M.B.M. Bracke, J.J. Zonderland, P. Lenskens, W.G.P. Schouten, H.M. Vermeer, H.A.M. Spoolder, H.J.M. Hendriks, H. Hopster

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72 Citations (Scopus)


The EC Directive 2001/93/EC states that: ¿Pigs must have permanent access to a sufficient quantity of material to enable proper investigation and manipulation activities, such as straw, hay, wood, sawdust, mushroom compost, peat or a mixture of such, which does not compromise the health of the animals¿. In order to help determine what is sufficient material for weaned and growing pigs, a literature review was conducted in a transparent and formalised way, systematically collecting relevant information in a database and translating this information into welfare-relevance. In total, 54 experiments reported in 47 references were selected for analysis. These references contained 200 statistically significant and welfare-relevant findings. A cross-table was constructed showing how classes of enrichment materials significantly affect classes of measured parameters. The classes of enrichment materials were metal objects, rubber, rope, wood, mineral blocks, roughage, substrates, straw and compound materials. The classes of welfare parameters were object-directed behaviour, pen-directed behaviour, tail and ear biting, aggression, (other) harmful social behaviour, activity (including play), fear (of humans), production and `health and hygiene¿. With a number of important caveats described in the paper the cross-table allows the tentative conclusion that the available scientific evidence indicates that metal objects are not suitable enrichment materials for pigs, that rubber, rope, wood, roughage and substrates may be sufficient and that straw and compound materials are best. The methodology developed here for reviewing the available scientific evidence is recommended for other areas of application. It provided an important first step towards making transparent the scientific basis for legal requirements on enrichment materials for pigs and supporting political decision making in this area.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-182
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • growing pigs
  • semantic model
  • support-system
  • weaned pigs
  • behavior
  • preference
  • provision
  • welfare
  • toys
  • roughage

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