Animal welfare inspections based on sampling 2012

In 2012, sampling-based animal welfare inspections were carried out on 493 farms with production animals. Procedures in violation of animal welfare regulations were reported on a total of 25 per cent of the inspected farms, which is somewhat less than in the previous year. The inspection results, however, showed clear differences between animal species. The observed omissions were in general of the same type as in the previous year.

The European Union obligates its member states to inspect a representative number of their production animal farms each year. In these inspections, compliance with regulations is monitored with respect to the entire national animal welfare legislation. In Finland, approx. 25% of controlled farms are picked for inspection by means of random sampling, the rest are selected on risk basis with certain emphases on specific animal species. For example, omissions observed in sampling-based and other animal welfare inspections performed in previous years increase the probability of becoming an object of inspection in the following years as well. Targeted sampling will probably increase the number of omissions observed in inspections.

Systematic animal welfare inspections based on sampling were started in Finland in 1998 and were then called EU animal welfare inspections. First inspection objects were calf and pig farms. Inspections have been expanded annually to cover an increasing number of production animal species. In 2012, inspections already covered nine animal species or groups, of which the latest are broilers.

In 2012, a total of 652 farms were ordered to be inspected, i.e., approx. 1.5 per cent of all Finnish cattle farms, three per cent of pig farms, seven per cent of egg producing farms, seven per cent of duck and goose farms, two per cent of sheep and goat farms, seven per cent of fur farms, and more than 30 per cent of broiler farms. Broiler farms were inspected more widely than other animal farms because of the EU’s requirement that all broiler farms must be inspected by the end of 2013. The number of farms ordered to be inspected decreased from the previous year due to a decrease in the number of farms. Approximately six per cent of the selected farms had no animals at the time of inspection. These farms had either recently given up animal farming altogether, or their production had been stopped for a long time. In reporting omissions, only farms with animals were taken into account.

On the national level, the total number of omissions observed in sampling-based animal welfare inspections of production animal farms decreased somewhat from 2011 (28%). Control, guidance and instruction have given results, for during the first years of the 21st century omissions were annually observed on more than 30 per cent of inspected farms. In 2006–2009, the proportion of omissions varied on both sides of 20 per cent, and in 2010–2012 increased again to almost 30 per cent. This was the third year, when the responsibility for inspections did not rest with municipal veterinary officers, but with provincial veterinary officers representing the Regional State Administrative Agency and specialised in inspections. During the last years, control based on risks has also been strongly developed.

Problems related to specific animal species observed in animal welfare inspections in 2012 were mainly the same as in earlier years. With respect to all animal groups, inspection results either improved or remained almost the same as in the previous year. On the other hand, on broiler farms which were for the first time inspected on sampling basis, the number of omissions was above average. Omissions requiring urgent measures for ensuring the welfare of animals were found on one cattle farm.


Inspections were carried out on a total of 288 cattle farms, of which 294 had cattle older than six months and 260 had calves. Omissions were observed on 22 per cent of the farms, which is five percentage points less than in 2011.

Of the omissions, slightly over half concerned calves, the most common of them remaining the same from year to year and concerning mainly space requirements and cleanness of the facility. In a group pen, there is not always enough space for each animal, and calves were kept in single penning over the permitted age. Cleanness and disinfection of the facilities and equipment were insufficiently taken care of, and some calves lacked a clean and dry lying area. The number of omissions related to the watering and feeding of calves decreased from the previous year. There were still some farms, where calves did not have daily access to a sufficient amount of water, but their number had clearly decreased from the previous year. Once again, the most common omissions concerning adult cattle were associated with keeping the facility clean and safe. On 22 farms, cattle did not have access to a clean and dry lying place. On 12 farms, cows and heifers which were kept tied had no access to pasture or open yard. Defective hoof care was also a problem on several farms. It is noteworthy that most of the omissions concerning calves and adult cattle were directly associated with factors affecting the animals’ welfare, as the proportion of shortcomings in recording treatment of diseases or the number of dead animals was less than three per cent. In cowsheds, where negligence concerning calves and adult cattle were observed, the average number of omissions exceeded four per farm.


A total of 38 pig farms were inspected. Procedures in breach of animal welfare regulations were observed on 24 per cent of the inspected farms, which is somewhat less than a year before (25%).

On pig farms, the most common omission in previous years was shortage of exploration and rooting material, such as straw or peat, but this time lack of enrichment material was only observed on one farm. In 2010, an omission of this type appeared on every fifth farm, but in 2011 only less than ten per cent of inspected farms still did not provide pigs with a sufficient amount of enrichment material. On the other hand, the proportion of omissions related to defective bookkeeping continued to increase, as nearly 25% per cent of the observed omissions were due to defective bookkeeping (19% in 2011). On two farms, piglets’ teeth were habitually cut and boar piglets were castrated older than permitted by legislation. Other single omissions were associated, e.g., with cleanness of the facility and non-compliance with the space requirements set for a boar pien. In pig houses where omissions were observed, their average number was slightly over two per farm.

Laying hens

23 poultry farms with more than 350 laying hens were inspected. Of the inspected poultry farms, approx. 60 per cent were battery farms with equipment, the rest were open hen houses (barn-type hen houses or multi-tiered aviaries). The proportion of observed omissions continued to decrease, falling from 26 per cent two years ago and 19 per cent in the previous year to the present 13 per cent. Omissions were only observed on three farms, of which two were battery farms and one an open hen house. All observed omissions were associated with space requirements or the equipment of the facility. On both battery farms, the space requirements were not in all respects met, in addition to which on one of the two farms there was not enough feeding space in cages and no litter for pecking and scratching, moreover, some cages lacked appropriate nest space. In the open hen house, the problem was insufficient area of nest spaces. Omissions related to bookkeeping were not observed on any of the poultry farms.


Welfare of broilers was controlled for the first time on the basis of sampling. Omissions were observed on 21 of the inspected 57 farms (37%), which exceed the average for all production animals. Most reports concerned defects in rearing unit conditions, of which the most common was insufficient lighting (approx. 40% of the omissions). Approx. 20% of observed omissions were associated with appropriate and up-to-date description of the production system. On some farms, not all broilers had access to an area with dry and loose litter.

Fur animals

On 20 fur farms of the inspected 37 (54%), defects in compliance with animal welfare regulations were observed. The number of omissions remained on the same relatively high level as in the previous year (53 %), but the proportion of omissions due to defective bookkeeping was clearly higher than in the previous years. 20 per cent of all omissions observed on fur farms were caused by defects in recording medicinal treatment or the number of animals that had died on the farm. One out of five inspected farms were not escape proof. Omissions were also still observed in the degree of compliance with space requirements, especially weaned fox cubs did not always have enough room. The transition period for cage requirements concerning fur animals ended at the close of 2010, but there are some farms that still have not renewed some of their cages. Structural defects were also observed in cages, such as worn places in the fox cage bottom mesh and its plastic coating, and also lacking rest shelves. As in previous years, lack of chewing and enrichment material was a common omission. Sick animals that had not been appropriately treated were found on four farms.

Sheep and goats

During the year, 32 sheep farms and 13 goat farms were inspected. On sheep farms, the proportion of omissions decreased only slightly (25%  22%) on the previous year, but the number of single omissions was reduced to a half: on sheep farms with omissions, their reported average number was less than three per farm. Omissions were still observed in the safety of the facility and in adequate supply of water. On some farms, the yard ground did not stay dry enough, or the yard lacked a suitable weather shelter. Defects in bookkeeping were observed on only one farm.

On one of the inspected goat farms, animals did not have enough space at their disposal.

Ducks and geese

As in the previous year, no omissions were observed on any of the five inspected duck and goose farms.