First Call

  • call is closed
  • 20 funding organisations involved from 16 countries
  • total budget of 14 Mio €
  • 67 full-proposals received
  • 10 projects recommended for funding



Ending tail docking and tail biting in the EU - Hazard characterization and exposure assessment of a major pig welfare problem



1 (Promoting research on the interface between animal health and welfare: development of practical animal-based indicators of animal health and welfare, development and implementation of new husbandry strategies ensuring good health and welfare.)

Duration of project:

36 Months

Total project costs:

2.571.717 €

Animal group:


Principle investigator:

Anna Valros, University of Helsinki, Finland

Project partner:

Aarhus University, Denmark
Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, Norway
Wageningen UR, The Netherlands
Newcastle University, United Kingdom
INRA, France
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden
SRUC, United Kingdom

Tail biting is a major health and welfare hazard in the EU pig industry, and efficient tools to control the problem are lacking. Contrary to the aim of EU directive (2001/93/EC), tail docking is widely used in most countries. This proposal focuses on the interface between animal health and welfare, the development of animal-based indicators, the assessment of pain and suffering, and the improvement of management practices. The aims are to support quantitative risk assessment and a shift towards a non-docking policy and practice. Tail docking is painful, and should be avoided, but tail biting is undesirable as well. Tail docking decreases the tail biting prevalence but it does not solve the underlying welfare problems, and a move towards adapting the environment to the pigs instead of vice versa is ethically justified. A more detailed hazard characterization is needed of the relative harms associated with tail docking and tail biting, as is further exposure assessment of the risks of tail biting, esp. in undocked pigs. We will provide this information and examine the efficiency of preventive measures to reduce the need for tail docking. Even though tail biting has a multifactorial background, this project focuses on the three most important related welfare hazards, namely tail docking, inadequate enrichment and poor health. The project includes studies on short- and long-term effects of tail docking and tail biting on pig welfare (WP1), tail biting and enrichment (WP2) and identification of individual and group characteristics predisposing pigs to tail biting, which can aid management of undocked animals (WP3).  In this way the project aims to provide the scientific basis needed to reduce tail docking and tail biting, and thereby significantly improve pig welfare in the EU.


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