133. Normal exploratory behaviour by rooting cannot be expressed when sows are nose-ringed because the ring is inserted with the specific intention of it causing discomfort should the sow attempt to dig and root. Ringing in itself can result in considerable distress to the sow when the procedure is carried out, especially when wire rings are lost and have to be regularly replaced and this type of ring is particularly inappropriate.
134. It is FAWC's opinion that there is little from a welfare point of view to justify the practice of nose-ringing. Some outdoor pig-keepers consider ringing essential in order to prevent rooting and to maintain the grass sward. We have been told that many are required by tenancy agreements to nose-ring pigs. We recognise that a grass sward can be advantageous, particularly in farrowing paddocks where insulating and cooling effects are beneficial in hot weather and where ground conditions can be maintained at a better standard. It is also claimed that on some sites sows will dig deep nests within the hut, with the resultant risk of overlying of her piglets, although this can be resolved by providing and maintaining adequate bedding. However, many units do not nose-ring and claim to experience no management difficulties.
135. There is a need to assess the efficacy of nose-ringing and to establish the extent of acute and chronic pain which occurs during and after the operation. It is also necessary to establish the motivational state underlying rooting needs and the frustration caused by prevention of rooting. The trust between the animal and the stockman is likely to be significantly affected by the carrying out of this stressful operation as soon as the gilt arrives on the farm.