Governing Animal-human Relations in Farming Practices: A Study of Group Housing of Sows in the EU

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Mpmm de Krom
Sociologia Ruralis
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EU pig welfare legislation required European pig farmers to shift from individual to group housing of pregnant sows by 1 January 2013. This requirement was principally designed to meet the sows’ needs for locomotion and interaction with conspecifics. This article explores how the legislation affected everyday sow-farmer interactions, which influence farm animal welfare to an important degree. We start by analysing conceptualisations of sow welfare and sow-farmer relations as implicated in the EU directive and the scientific advice that informed it. Contending that these conceptualisations largely overlook co-developments in sow housing systems and sow-farmer relations, we subsequently introduce an alternative analytical framework that builds on sociological, practice-oriented theories. We then apply this framework to analyse 19 qualitative interviews with pig farmers in Belgium on the on-farm introduction of group sow housing. In this analysis, we discern different ways in which farmers’ choices for particular group housing systems were co-constituted by and co-constitutive of everyday sow-farmer relations. We conclude by reflecting on the scientific and policy implications of these findings.


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