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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Danish Farmers Show Pigs Can Fly

Dan-investDan-Invest piglets feeding. The firm has decided to fly pigs for breeding to Russia to avoid complicated new EU rules.
Danish farmers are going to make pigs fly after new European Union rules on animal welfare made it longer and riskier to send them to Russia by truck.

Dan-Invest is planning to fly a total of 20,000 pigs this year and next for breeding at its five joint ventures in Russia, board chairman Kent Skaanning said Wednesday.

"Now we are discussing in our company if we should fly the pigs tourist class or business class," Skaanning said jokingly by telephone from Hemmet, Denmark. "They are going to Russia to work for us, so it has to be business class."

Pig farming in Russia is growing rapidly, while Denmark offers some of the world's best breeding stock. But getting the pigs to Russia posed a challenge after EU rules went into effect at the beginning of this year that say livestock can travel no more than 24 hours without a 24-hour rest.

Not only do the rules make the four-day trip to Russian farms twice as long, but they also increase the risk of the pigs contracting an infection on the way, Skaanning said.

"It's important for us to protect the pigs," he said. "When the pigs reach the destination, we have a risk that they will be ill."

Flying pigs to Russia will come at twice the cost but take only five hours at most, Skaanning said. He said a Russian airline has offered to fly 600 pigs at a time, he said. That would make about 24 planeloads of pigs.

The pigs will be flown to the Krasnodar region, where Dan-Invest has three joint ventures, and the Tambov region, home to two more ventures. Dan Invest, a group of investors and farmers dedicated to projects in Russia, intends to breed 300,000 pigs every year at just one of its farms in the Tambov region.

EU introduced the rules on animal transportation in response to concerns voiced by animal rights advocates, said Philip Tod, EU spokesman on health and consumer protection. "We are aware that the conditions for animal transportation can be difficult and there have been many expressions of concern from the public in Europe," he said by telephone from Brussels.

EU officials believe the new rules will not harm trade because they provide a balance between the need to trade and animal welfare protection, he said.

Russian law sets no rules for livestock transportation, said Alexei Alexeyenko, a spokesman for the Federal Service for Veterinarian and Vegetation Sanitary Supervision. But that could change in the next three years after Russia and EU started a project earlier this month to harmonize their agricultural legislation, he said.

It is common practice now for veterinarians to accompany shipments of livestock and allow the animals periods of rest, Alexeyenko said. "Owners are interested in their livestock arriving alive and well," he said.