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Pig toy tale 'anti-Europe rubbish'

Under new EU rules, pigs are to be given "manipulable material" such as straw or hay -- but not necessarily toys

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LONDON, England -- A report that claimed British pigs would have to be supplied with toys to keep them content has been described as "utter eurosceptic rubbish" by European Union officials.

It had been reported that UK pig farmers would have to supply toys to pigs or face fines up to 2,500 under an EU directive.

But EU and UK officials knocked down the report, saying that under EU legislation on pig welfare, the animals only need to be given such rooting materials as straw, hay, wood, sawdust, compost or peat.

Jim Dougal, head of the European Commission in the UK, said: "There is no mention of toys in the EU directive. Yet again we see sections of the press resorting to invention in order to propagate their eurosceptic agenda.

"If the UK wants to tell farmers that they should supply toys for their pigs, that is matter for them."

UK Animal Welfare Minister Elliot Morley said: "Like many euromyths, to suggest farmers are being ordered to give pigs toys is not true.

"Although it sounds amusing, there is a serious point to animal welfare behind the new pig directive which requires animals to have access to manipulable materials.

"This and other forms of environmental enrichment are examples of good management and it is already included in industry-run quality assurance schemes which farmers have applied for many years."

The EU legislation was introduced following scientific evidence that showed boredom in pigs could lead them to harm themselves and each other.

A spokesman for the UK Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) had been quoted as saying the regulations required all pigs to have access to a "sufficient quantity of manipulable materials."

"While straw and hay would do, obviously the use of a football or a chain would also do," the spokesman said.

"For many years now vets have been suggesting that you put a football or something to kick around into the stall with a horse if it is restless," he said.

"Basically, the same is true for pigs. If you put in a football or you dangle a chain they could nose it around and play with it, it is helpful."

Joyce D'Silva, chief executive of Compassion in World Farming, was critical of the way DEFRA handled the announcement of the new regulation.

"The EU directive on providing pigs with 'manipulable material' is a welfare measure designed to ensure they can carry out their natural rooting behaviour -- instead of living on barren, concrete slatted floors.

"The intention is to provide pigs with materials like straw or mushroom compost to allow them to root -- not basketballs as quoted by DEFRA.

"It is quite clear that there are people in DEFRA with little knowledge of pigs, apart from perhaps those they see in Hamleys toy shop.

"With this announcement, DEFRA are completely trivialising animal welfare issues."

It is true that farmers who fail to follow the new regulations could be fined up to 2,500 but would not face a jail sentence.

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