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Why 99% of Irish pigletshave their tails cut off,contrary to an EU Directive

18 th March 2024

talking about animals

THIS WEEK’S DISCUSSION [number 5 in the series]

Why 99% of Irish piglets have their tails cut off, contrary to an EU Directive

Suggested by Gerry Boland, founder of and spokesperson for

Animals Behind Closed Doors, advocating for appropriate

rights for animals and for a vegan lifestyle (087-6397557)


Contrary to a 2008 EU Directive, the tails of almost all pigs are docked shortly after birth. If tail-docking isn’t carried out, the pigs will bite and chew the tails of other pigs, resulting in open wounds, probable infection, and economic loss to the producer. The docking, or cutting off, of a piglet’s tail is painful and is typically carried out without any pain relief by clippers, pliers or by cauterisation (burning off).

Council Directive 2008/120/EC states:

"Neither tail-docking nor reduction of corner teeth must be carried out routinely but only where there is evidence that injuries to sows's teats or to other pig's ears or tails have occurred.”

Pigs, naturally, live in small social groups, outdoors. In modern-day pig farming, pigs are raised in large numbers in crowded sheds and, with nothing to occupy their curious minds, in-fighting is inevitable. In addition to tail docking, they often have their teeth clipped. This is to prevent injuries to other piglets whilst competing for their mother’s milk.


Dump the race-to-the-bottom economic model which dominates pig production across the globe.

Reduce the numbers of pigs in a shed and raise them in much smaller social groupings.

Provide a range of material that will occupy the pigs and provide relief

from the daily boredom of having nothing to do.

Allow them extensive access to a large outdoor area where they can root and forage.

The cost to the consumer of pork products will increase significantly, pork no longer being a cheap meat. This is how it should be, as animal protein is both an environmentally costly and extremely inefficient source of protein.


Acknowledge and accept that animals are not ours to use—for food, clothing, entertainment, or experimentation, and that they deserve consideration of what is in their best interests, regardless of whether they are useful to humans.

Thus, phase out all intensive piggeries.

Let pigs live as their wild ancestors lived, outdoors, in small social


Let them have their dignity, their tails, and their lives.

Embrace compassion by switching to a plant-based diet.


PIGS have complex social structures. They love to play and pretend-fight with others, just like dogs, and they sleep snuggled up nose to nose.

THEY make nests to sleep in and they dig out wallows in the mud when they need to cool down (pigs can’t sweat).

THEY will eat small animals if they can catch them, but mostly they will forage for leaves, grass, roots, fruits and flowers.

THEY prefer to be clean and will avoid defecating close to where they eat or sleep.

RESEARCHERS have identified twenty different grunts and oinks that pigs use for different situations to communicate.

THERE are multiple studies showing that pigs are highly intelligent and can outsmart dogs in cognitive ability tests.

THE NUMBER of pigs slaughtered annually, worldwide, is approximately 1.5 billion. (That’s 4,100,000 every day; 171,232 every hour; 2853 every minute; 47 every second.)

CHINA rears around half of the world’s pigs, the other big players being the EU, North America, Vietnam and Brazil.

3.5 MILLION pigs are slaughtered in Ireland each year.

99% of Ireland’s pigs are bred and reared in indoor, non-straw bedded, slatted or solid floor systems, often in units of over 1,000 pigs, with over 40% of the pig population living in units of over 10,000 animals.

I am happy to discuss this issue on air, also more than willing to debate with an industry representative.

Gerry Boland

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