Environmental enrichment for pigs

The welfare of farmed pigs can be improved by modifying their environment with bedding, substrates, or objects, so that they can perform more of their pig-specific behaviours. However, scientific knowledge is not necessarily reaching farms.

A recent review published by Heleen van de Weerd and Sarah Ison examines why the industry has not yet fully embraced the benefits of effective enrichment.

In the article ‘Providing Effective Environmental Enrichment to Pigs: How Far Have We Come?’, Heleen and Sarah review evidence from the three largest global pork producing regions. In the USA, enrichment has not yet appeared on farms, except when required by higher welfare farm schemes. China hardly has any animal welfare legislation and food safety concerns restrict the use of enrichment on farms, whereas the provision of pig enrichment is required by law in EU Member States.

In practice, enrichment is not always present, or is unsuitable or inadequate. Other risks to animal welfare include inadequate presentation, location, quantity and size, and maintenance of enrichment. Improvements can be made by applying principles from other fields of behavioural science; welfare knowledge transfer and training to farms; highlighting the economic benefits of effective enrichment; increasing pressure from the financial sector; using novel drivers of change, such as public benchmarking.

The article is open access in the journal Animals:

van de Weerd, H. A & Ison, S. (2019). Providing Effective Environmental Enrichment to Pigs: How Far Have We Come? Animals 20199(5), 254; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9050254