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Tail-docking and tooth-clipping

136. The Welfare of Livestock Regulations 1994 state:
"Neither tail-docking nor tooth-clipping shall be carried out routinely but only when there is evidence, on the farm, that injuries to sows' teats or to other piglets have occurred or are likely to occur as a result of not carrying out these procedures. Where tooth-clipping appears necessary, this shall only be carried out within seven days of birth."

137. Tail-docking is undertaken if farmers consider that there is a risk of tail biting developing at the finishing stage. Thus if pigs are destined for intensive finishing it will usually be carried out. A recent survey of management and welfare in outdoor pig production systems (see paragraph 65) indicated that some 58% of units surveyed practised tail-docking. It is recommended that management practices and environmental design should be geared towards minimising the incidence of tail biting, so reducing the need for this mutilation.

138. If piglets are to have their tails docked, the law requires the operation should be carried out in the first week of life only, if it is performed by a non-veterinarian without anaesthetic. Clean equipment should be used and the procedure must be quick and sever the tail completely. The use of an antiseptic wash between pigs is recommended. Should an older piglet need to be tail-docked, it is a legal requirement that this operation must be undertaken by a veterinary surgeon using an anaesthetic.

139. Tooth-clipping is widely carried out by pig farmers (68% of outdoor pig production systems covered by the survey mentioned above) to minimise the damage to the sow's teats and to the cheeks of other piglets in the litter. However, the act of tooth-clipping exposes the pulp cavity so there is a potential for poor welfare, although the extent of any problem is not fully understood at present. Thus, we believe there is a need to establish the extent of chronic and acute pain that occurs during and after the operation. We also recommend that if teeth are to be clipped at the same time as tails are docked, the equipment used should be thoroughly disinfected between each operation.