In 2014, planned animal welfare inspections based on sampling were carried out on 284 farms with production animals. Non-compliance with the animal welfare regulations was reported on 22 per cent of the inspected farms, which is somewhat less than in the previous year. The inspection results showed distinct differences for different species. The results were influenced by an exceptional year for inspections as there were a great number of inspected pig farms which influenced the number of inspections as well as the grounds for inspection of other species. The results are therefore not completely comparable to previous years.
The European Union obliges the member states to inspect a representative number of farms with production animals annually. During these inspections, the compliance with all of the national animal welfare regulations is checked. In Finland, about a quarter of the farms to be monitored are selected for inspection by random sampling, and the rest are selected based on risk with a certain emphasis defined for each species. For example, the non-compliances observed in previous years during animal welfare inspections based on sampling or other animal welfare inspections will increase the likelihood of inspections in future years.
Planned sampling-based animal welfare inspections on farms in Finland began in 1998. The first inspections were carried out on calf rearing and pig farms. The inspections have been extended every year to take in new species of production animals and since 2012 nine different animal species or groups are covered by inspections.
In 2014, inspections were ordered to be carried out on 355 farms with production animals (683 in 2013). Considerably less inspections based on sampling were ordered to be carried out than in previous years, as it was decided that 392 pig farms containing 10–99 sows should be inspected due to the request by the EU Commission for investigation into the requirement for pigs to be kept in groups. On these pig farms it was investigated how the requirements for rearing in groups were fulfilled. On about four per cent of the farms to be inspected there were no animals at the time of inspection. These farms had either recently stopped keeping animals altogether or there was a longer break in production on the farm. The reports on non-compliance only concerned farms where there were animals.
The number of farms where violations were noted during the animal welfare inspections of production animals based on sampling had dropped a little from 2013 (29.5 %→22 %). Violations that required urgent measures to be carried out in order to ensure the welfare of the animals were noted on only one cattle farm.
Monitoring, guidance and training have most obviously achieved results, as during the first years of the 21st century violations were detected annually in over 30 per cent of the inspected farms. In 2007–2009 the proportion of violations varied on both sides of 20 per cent and rose to nearly 30 per cent in 2010–2013. The risk-based approach to monitoring has been developed strongly in recent years. Risk-based sampling should increase the number of violations detected during inspections.
Inspections were carried out on a total of 200 cattle farms. Violations were discovered on 23 per cent of the farms, which is four percentage points less than in 2013.
Nearly 40 % of the violations concerned calves (in 2013 a little over 40 %), of which the most common violations have remained the same from one year to the next and concerned mainly the requirements for space, cleanliness and safety on the holding. The group pens were not always spacious enough per animal, and calves over the permitted age were held in individual pens. The spaces and equipment were not sufficiently clean, disinfected and safe, and not all calves had a clean and dry area to sleep on. 15 % of the violations regarding calves were related to their watering or feeding.
The most common violations concerning cattle over six months of age also concerned the cleanliness and requirements for space on the holding. On 18 farms (9 %) the cattle didn’t have a clean and dry place to lie down. Of the violations, 18 % were related to outdoor exercise areas or the condition of those areas. On 7 farms, cows and heifers that were kept tied up could not go out to pasture or into an exercise area. As in previous years, inadequate hoof care was a problem on several farms. Most of the violations observed with both calves and adult cattle were directly related to factors that affected the welfare of the animals, as the proportion of all the non-compliances involving the recording of the health care or of the number of dead animals was less than 4 %. Urgent measures were taken on one cattle farm in order to ensure the welfare of the animals.
A total of 55 pig farms were inspected. Non-compliance with the animal welfare regulations was discovered on 29 per cent of the inspected farms, which is more than the year before (19 %).
There were on average 2.7 breaches per farm. Of all of the breaches discovered on pig farms, 26 % were related to space requirements. Most commonly, the shortcomings were due to the requirements for floor area for pigs kept in groups. On the other hand, the most common cause for negligence until 2011, which was a lack of materials to investigate and to root in, was only found on occasional farms, which had been the case for the three previous years. This time, a lack of stimulating materials and/or a lack of nesting material was found on three farms, that is 5 % of the inspected farms. It would seem that the collaboration with the whole chain of production has brought permanent improvement in this matter. As in previous years, the shortcomings with the recordkeeping remained one of the most common causes of non-compliance on pig farms, as 12 % were due to inadequate recordkeeping. On three farms the lighting requirements were not fulfilled. Other occasional non-compliances were mainly related to the cleanliness and safety on the holding and to the feeding and watering of the pigs.
A total of 6 poultry farms with more than 350 laying hens were inspected. No negligence was found on any of the inspected poultry farms.
No negligence was found on the three broiler farms that were inspected.
Only 4 fur farms were inspected, and shortcomings were found on one of these (25 %). The non-compliance was related to the ability to prevent escape from the fur farm. The previous year non-compliances were found on 54 % of the 24 inspected farms.
Sheep and goats
No breaches were found on the 13 inspected sheep farms and 5 goat farms.
Ducks and geese
A total of 5 duck and goose farms were inspected, and as in the three previous years no breaches were found.