"Aktion Tierwohl" Glossary

Several catchwords regarding to Aktion Tierwohl.


Determination of health index and husbandry profile for farms

In the context of visual meat inspection findings are used that provide information about the health status of the producers farm. The criteria for this recorded at the farm include daily weight gain, fattening losses and treatment days if necessary. 

These are not only recorded as the law partly requires but as part of the programme compared with those of other farms and the meat processing centre average. 


When an animal feels well, it does not refuse to eat its feed and does not require medication. Positive weight gains as well as few days of illness are a testimony to low reject levels and healthy animals. The data are weighted and consolidated into a health index for each farm. The livestock health service of the NRW chamber of agriculture advises farms that rate below average compared with the meat processing plant in order to improve the farm’s health status. This in fact happens every six months at least once and no more than three times. If the farm has not significantly improved by the third time, it drops out of the programme. 

To determine the suitability of farms to keep livestock additional criteria are visually applied as part of the official meat inspection at the Aktion Tierwohl meat processing plant. Especially, the animals joints, skin, ears, tail, lungs and pleura are examined for injuries, infections or other damages to the carcass. Any defects discovered such as infected ears or bitten tails constitute findings. Only animals with an absence of or insignificant findings comply with Aktion Tierwohl standards as the benchmark for above-average husbandry and transport conditions. 

Husbandry conditions across Europe are regulated by an animal welfare livestock husbandry ordinance. The effect of husbandry conditions on the animal has hardly been determined previously in traditional meat inspections. This is why Aktion Tierwohl is now applying additional criteria in order to document the husbandry profile for keeping livestock. 

Voluntary commitment activities

As part of Aktion Tierwohl the following voluntary commitments are undertaken, which have not previously been regulated by law:

  • Abandoning castration of male piglets
  • Veterinary health plan on farms
  • Determination of health index and husbandry profile for farms
  • Innovative, supervised anaesthesia

More than required by law

In the following list of criteria Aktion Tierwohl exceeds the current legal requirements, which are regulated in the national Animal Welfare Livestock Husbandry Ordinance (TierSchNutztV) as amended on 25 October 2001:

1. Pen area

In Aktion Tierwohl farms a minimum area of 2.25 square metres per sow is stipulated. According to the livestock husbandry ordinance, however, with more than 39 sows per pen, only an area of 2.05 square metres is required.

3. Water supply

With Aktion Tierwohl water access to be guaranteed at all times and there need to be a defined number of troughs or drinkers (in drinking water quality). Federal law only requires a "sufficient" supply of water.

4. Inspection of farms own wells

Aktion Tierwohl requires an annual inspection of water quality if livestock is watered from a farms own well. The livestock husbandry ordinance does not specify any such inspection.

5. Fibre content in Feed

With Aktion Tierwohl pregnant sows must be given high-fibre feed (30% more than stipulated by the animal feed laws) to improve satiation.

6. Birth preparation

With Aktion Tierwohl sows are given suitable nesting material (woodchips, hay or straw) in the week before farrowing and are washed and wormed. Similar actions are not mandatory with existing stalls.

7. Suckling period

On Aktion Tierwohl farms the weaning of piglets occurs only after 28 days so they are better immunised and ready to the fattening unit. According to the livestock husbandry ordinance weaning of piglets can take place after only 21 days.

8. Toys

While the ordinance only requires "playing material", Aktion Tierwohl producers offer all their pigs miscellaneous and varied toys that stimulate all their senses. This helps the sows to develop natural behaviour in terms of activity, curiosity and their instinct for play. Also it reduces boredom.

9. Stable cleaning

On Aktion Tierwohl farms only potable quality water is allowed for cleaning purposes. The livestock husbandry ordinance specifies nothing here.

10. Livestock transport

Aktion Tierwohl farms are located within a radius of approximately 80km from the meat processing plant and therefore provide short transport times of less than three hours on average. With qualified drivers trained in animal welfare, the stress on livestock during transport from the stable to the abattoir is kept at a very low level. Legislation allows for livestock transports in Germany of up to eight hours.

Innovative, supervised anaesthesia

For some time critics have suspected that several pigs have not been properly stunned and killed before being scalded. For this reason the Aktion Tierwohl meat processing plant supervises all the slaughtering processes with a fully automatic, reliable bleeding monitoring device and camera system with data backup. Incorrect stunning and other deviations cause the conveyor belt to stop immediately. This procedure is unique, which is why a patent has been applied for.

Independently inspected activities

Assurance requires not only trust but especially inspections. For the Aktion Tierwohl standard around 100 checks are carried out including compliance with an internationally applied set of standards for animal welfare by independent inspectors and extended, visual methods in the context of official meat inspections. 


All premises are audited in compliance with the Aktion Tierwohl standard. This includes both QS as well as international animal welfare and other criteria such as not conducting piglet castration. 

The Aktion Tierwohl standard safeguards the objectives through additional checks at the farm and the meat processing plant: 

  • Slaughter control 
  • Health index 
  • Husbandry prof

Tail docking

Tail docking must not be carried out routinely. It may only be executed when there is an evidence on the farm that injuries to pigs have occurred or are likely to occur as a result of not tail docking. The producer may only conduct tail docking where the veterinary surgeon has confirmed in writing that the practices are necessary and acceptable.

If tail docking is carried out it must adhere to the following: docked tails must be of a uniform length and cover the vulva and anus. Equipment used must be sufficiently sharp to allow docking at the first attempt and must be kept in good working order, clean and clearly identified to its use.


Veterinary health plan on farms

At least once a year Aktion Tierwohl farmers discuss with their vet preventative measures to be implemented regularly such as: 

  • Baseline screening 
  • Clinical testing 
  • Quarantine 
  • Health monitoring 
  • Vaccinations 


Their visit is documented and checked as part of the annual audit.

Abandoning castration of male piglets

The improvement of animal welfare is also associated with a decision not to castrate male piglets. Only uncastrated pigs go for fattening. After being slaughtered a cooking test is undertaken for every boar. Any undesirable odours mean they are excluded from Aktion Tierwohl products.