The National Pig Association (NPA) has convened a cross-industry meeting to discuss tail biting in response to increased levels of scrutiny over the practice of tail docking.

Chief executive Zoe Davies met with Defra, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), pig producers, vets, scientific experts and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) yesterday (Wednesday, August 9).

The group met to discuss what actions the industry needs to take and what support the government could provide to tackle the problem.

“This is a pivotal meeting for the pig industry as it will define how Government and industry work together in future on the intractable problem that is tail biting," Zoe said.

"We are very keen for all parties to come with an open mind so we can forge a collective response and agree on a reasonable approach that ensures better compliance with the law whilst also protecting pig welfare."

There has been a renewed focus on tail biting this year, as Defra clamps down on tail docking on pig farms, partly in response to pressure from the European Commission.

Routine tail docking has been flagged up during a number of cross compliance inspections in recent months.

Defra clarified its position recently. A spokesperson said: “Routine tail docking is not permitted by law.

Pig farmers need to demonstrate at inspections that tail docking has been used as a last resort after taking the necessary steps, as described in the current welfare codes, to reduce the risks of tail biting.

"This includes actions to improve the pigs’ environment and their management.

“We want to see full compliance and, to aid enforcement, we have consulted on a new statutory pig welfare code, and are currently analysing responses.”