Animals play a very important role in human life. They have a significant part in agricultural production, they offer their company as pets and support many handicapped people. They save and protect human lives. Thanks to animals many medicines of vital importance have been elaborated.
Unfortunately animals are not able to communicate with us like people communicate with each other. They cannot express themselves verbally but they can inform us about their needs by movements, body bearing or sounds. Fall in productivity or loss of appetite also provides information about the worsening welfare of the animal.
All this can be noticed and understood by a person who is skilled and experienced in communication with animals. There exist an endless variety of different understandings about guaranteeing animal welfare. It is sure that most of the keepers of animals care and love their animals, but unfortunately we have also animal keepers who can’t or won’t respect a farm animal more than a production machine, ensuring the animal only with minimal food, leaving the sick animal without veterinary help or causing unnecessary suffering to the animal by activity or inactivity. Here the requirements elaborated by authorised persons and based on long-term scientific experience help to regulate keeping animals of different species or groups.
Keeping of pigs
General requirements for keeping hens (required to be used in all establishments and farms, where hens are kept):
1) The room or building for keeping hens and the means and equipment for that is required not to endanger the health and welfare of hens.
2) The floor of the room or the cage is required to be made from a material that offers sufficient support for the front claws of hens. Such material might be wire netting, deep bedding, rugged concrete etc. The diameter of the wire, used in wire netting on the floor is required to be at least 2.0 mm.
3) If hen cages have been placed on top of each other, it is required to enable access to all hens without any obstacles and it should be possible to take them out from the cages without hurting them. Droppings should not fall into the lower cages either.
4) In the room or building where hens are kept noise level over 65 dBA is required to be avoided. For comparison, noise level in the reading hall of a library is about 40 dBA, a vacuum cleaner generates noise of about 70 – 70 dBA, pneumatic drill about 100 dBA and reactive plain at the starting moment in the distance of 50 m is generates noise about 120 dBA. Sudden noise is required to be avoided as well.
5) Thermal insulation, heating and ventilation of the room or the building for the keeping of the hens should ensure the air exchange, relative humidity, particle content, temperature and gas concentration of the air on the level not harmful for the health of the hens.
6) Artificial ventilation system should be equipped with an alarm system (signal light or sound signal in the room of the tender), enabling to react immediately in case ventilation stops and start to use the reserve system (open ventilation shafts, ventilation chimneys, windows).
7) The hens are not permitted to be kept in permanent darkness, neither without a dark period for twenty-four hours. In case artificial lights are used, the so-called twilight phase of ca 15 minutes is required before and after darkness, with lights of less intensity.
8) The means used for feeding and watering of hens are required to be arranged in a way to ensure the access of all the hens to food and water.
9) All hens have to be examined once per day and the sick, injured or dead birds are required to be removed. Veterinary aid should be provided to sick or injured hens if necessary.
10) Information about diseases and dead birds is recorded. Records are required to be retained for at least 3 years. The records may be kept and retained both on paper and electronically. As to the latter option, there should exist an opportunity to print the records.
Rearing laying hens in unenriched cage systems (required in hencoops or farms with over 350 laying hens): unenriched cage systems are used in most of Estonian hencoops at the moment. The cage is made of wire netting, equipped with feeding and watering means and a hole in the backside of the cage, from where the eggs leave to the conveyer belt. Generally there are no more „conveniences“ in the noted cages. The space for hens is minimal there.
The noted cages may be used until the 31st of December 2011, but after the 5th of July 2003 no new cages of this type are permitted to take into use.
Requirements for unenriched cage systems are as follows:
1) If 3 – 7 laying hens are kept in the cage, the space of at least 550 cm2 is required per hen (if two hens are kept there, then 600 cm2 for each respectively and 1000 cm2 of floor space per hen). It is not permitted to keep more than seven laying hens in one cage.
2) The length of the feeder has to be at least 10 cm multiplied by the number of hens in the cage.
3) When using a standard watering vessel its length has to be at least 10 cm multiplied by the number of hens in the cage. When using nipple- or cup-type watering vessels, the hens are required to have an access to at least two watering vessels.
4) 65% of the cage is required to be at least 40 cm high and should never be lower than 35 cm.
5) The slope of the floor should not be over 14%.
6) The cage should be equipped with appropriate means for wearing off the claws of the hens, that is usually analogical to sandpaper on the floor of the cage where the hens can wear off their claws.
Keeping laying hens in enriched cages (required in the hencoops or farms with over 350 laying hens): The noted cages are, like the name claims, enriched in many ways and equipped with additional equipment, improving significantly the conditions of keeping laying hens. Due to the abovementioned, the welfare and productivity of laying hens should be improved significantly.
Requirements for improved cages are as following:
1) At least 750 cm2 of cage space per hen and communal space of the cage at least 2000 cm2.
2) The cage has to be equipped with:
- A nest
- Bedding to enable pecking and scratching
- Roosts, considering at least 15 cm per hen
- Feeder, considering at least 12 cm per hen
- Appropriate watering vessel(s), suitable for the size of the group
- Means for wearing off the claws
3) There has to be space with the width of 90 cm between the cages and the lowest cage row has to be situated on the height of at least 35 cm from the floor.
Keeping of laying hens according to alternative methods (required in hencoops or farms, with over 350 laying hens): Alternative methods in keeping of hens belong to a completely new direction in intensive hen breeding. This includes elements of both non-caged and caged keeping, ensuring complete welfare and maximum production of laying hens. The systems may be divided into several levels and be equipped with walking pens. Hen-breeders, who have decided to switch for alternative keeping system of laying hens, have to comply with the requirements starting from the 1st of January 2007.
The requirements for alternative systems are as following:
1) The length of the edge of a linear feeder has to be at least 10 cm per hen, in case of a round feeder at least 4 cm per hen.
2) The length of the edges of standard watering vessels has to be at least 2.5 cm per hen, in case valve watering vessels are used, at least 1 cm per hen. In case of a cup or nipple watering vessel every hen is supposed to have an access to at least two watering vessels.
3) The system is supposed to have at least one nest per 7 hens, in case of group nests at least 1 m2 of the nest space per 120 hens.
4) The system is requested to have roosts with a consideration of 15 cm per hen. The roosts should not be placed above bedding and the horizontal distance between the roosts should be at least 30 cm and the distance between the roost and the wall at least 20 cm.
5) The hens are to be supplied with bedding that covers at least 1/3 of the floor space.
6) The location density of keeping laying hens according to alternative method should not be over 9 hens per 1 m2. An exception has been made for the keepers of animals whose business was functioning before the 5th of July 2003 and where the hencoop is taking up 100% of the house or building used for housing hens (the area used for keeping of laying hens is equal to the whole usable area in the room or building for keeping laying hens). These premises may exceptionally have 12 hens per 1 m2 until 31st of December 2011.
7) If the hens can move between the different levels, then:
- There may be maximum four levels on top of each other;
- Interval between the levels has to be at least 45 cm;
- Feeders and watering vessels have to be placed properly, to enable the access of all hens to them;
- Levels have to be placed properly, to avoid the droppings falling onto lower levels.
8) If hens have an access to a walking pen, then:
- The pen is requested to have several openings with the height at least 35 cm and the width at least 40 cm, situated along the whole length of the room or the building and enabling direct access into the walking pen; the total width of openings for a group of 1000 hens is requested to be at least 2 m;
-Walking pens are requested to protect the hens against unfavourable weather conditions and beasts of pray;
- Walking pens should be equipped with watering vessels if necessary.
Specific requirements for keeping of breeding hens, biddies, young hens and capons are presented in chapters 5, 6 and 7 of the previously noted regulation.
Keeping of experimental animals
Animal testing means using an experimental animal on a permitted scientific purpose, as following:
1) Preventing, diagnosing or medical treatment of human, animal or plant diseases;
2) Developing medicines, food commodities, other substances and products and controlling their safety;
3) Identifying, assessing, regulating or changing physiological conditions of human, animal or plant;
4) Protecting nature for the sake of human or animal welfare or health;
5) Education and training, except in basic education and teaching basic subjects;
6) Judicial investigation.
It is prohibited to perform animal testing on the purpose of improving arms or ammunition or on the purpose of developing tobacco products and some cosmetic products. Animal testing may hurt, injure or cause the death of experimental animal.
There are three fields of establishments dealing with experimental animals:
1) Establishments for breeding experimental animals;
2) Establishments for supplying with experimental animals;
3) Establishments that use experimental animals.
All the noted establishments are approved and supervised by Veterinary and Food Board. Requirements for noted establishments and the approving procedure is presented in Regulation of Government No 181 of 30 April 2004 „Requirements for breeding and supplying of experimental animals and the procedure of approval of the noted establishments and requirements for them“.
In order to acquire an approval the representative of the establishment has to apply to the local office of Veterinary and Food Board and fill out the respective application form.
The establishment that is using experimental animals is also required to have a permission to perform animal testing which is being issued by a special committee, established by the Ministry of Agriculture according to Regulation of Government No 187 of 1 July 2003 „Procedure for establishing a committee to issue permissions for animal testing, its tasks and working procedure and application forms for performing animal testing and the protocol of animal testing“.
If experiments are to be carried out with a genetically modified animal, the risk analysis of animal testing is required to be compiled. The requirements for this risk analysis have been presented in Regulation of the Government No 377 of 10 December 2002 „The requirements for compiling risk analysis for animal testing with genetically modified animals and the data required in risk analysis.