Pig welfare guidance

Guidance about the needs of pigs and how to meet these needs in accordance with good practice.


1. This guidance (which applies in Scotland only) covers all farmed pigs, including piglets, whether they are being kept for breeding, growing and / or finishing, or other agricultural purposes, whether they are “wild” type or Eurasian boar kept in a confined farm (or exhibition / farm park) environment, and whether kept singly or in multiples. This guidance will help owners / keepers of pigs to comply with animal welfare legislation, but is not intended as a replacement for advice from a veterinary surgeon or an expert technical advisor.

2. While many of the provisions of this guidance are specific to an on-farm or other agricultural environment, others may be relevant to anyone who keeps pigs, including those keeping companion / “pet” pigs.

3. The Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2010 lay down the conditions under which all farmed animals, including pigs, must be kept (schedule 1). They also specify additional conditions that only apply to the keeping of pigs (schedule 6). Some of the specific legal requirements are contained in boxes throughout the guidance. The Council of Europe has also made recommendations concerning farmed pigs. Where these are not already set out in legislation, they are reflected in this guidance.

4. There are also licensing requirements for Old World pigs (family Suidae), such as wild boars and wart hogs, under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 which may apply. Other legislation (for example in relation to welfare at time of killing, welfare during transport, or animal identification) may be relevant to pig welfare. Expert advice, such as from a veterinary surgeon or expert technical advisor, should also be sought.

5. The relevant animal welfare legislation applies to owners as well as to anyone who is responsible for a pig, whether on the farm, during transport (including loading and unloading), and at the point of slaughter. This includes anyone given temporary responsibility for pig care, including a veterinary surgeon. A written contract for both permanent staff and third parties contracted to carry out specific roles, such as on-farm killing, or stock-checking, can be useful in making sure that everyone involved is clear about their animal welfare responsibilities. However, the obligations imposed by law will still apply, whether or not a contract exists. Certain aspects of livestock husbandry can present hazards to the health and safety of the stock-keeper. Advice on such matters is available from the Health and Safety Executive.

6. Pigs are inquisitive, social animals and should ideally be managed in small groups with the sight, smell and touch of other pigs that are known to them. They can be kept in a range of rearing environments, from wholly outdoors to wholly indoor units. However, not all types of pigs are suited for every type of environment, so it is important to have the right combination of animal type and system used. Meeting the pigs’ welfare needs in these different environments presents different challenges for owners / keepers. It is possible for pigs to adapt to different environments, but careful supervision is important when changes are introduced at different stages of rearing.

7. Pigs should receive positive human handling and interaction from an early age that is appropriate to the system in which they are reared. These early interactions should be performed in such a way that acclimatises the pigs to humans so that they learn to react inquisitively rather than fearfully to human presence (after any initial startle reflex reaction). However, they should not be used for public spectacles or demonstrations if such use is likely to be detrimental to their health and welfare.

8. It is important that the herd size and husbandry system used are appropriate for the pig breed type selected (e.g. certain breeds / types will be suitable for indoor systems, and others will be suitable for outdoor systems), the age and size of the pigs, and any environmental or geographical restrictions on the land, including farm size. Staff time available and their skill / competence to manage the particular system will also influence the choice of herd size and husbandry system. It is important that animal welfare is considered and respected when planning any new building or development, or designing or installing new equipment. Any such management or environmental changes should aim to improve or maintain welfare. The impact of any changes on the health and welfare of the pigs should be monitored, and any issues rectified.


Email: animal_health_welfare@gov.scot

Back to top