Remember when the European Union had something to do with free trade? The London Times now reports that farmers throughout Britain "have 90 days to put a toy in every pigsty or face up to three months in jail." The new law comes not from London but from Brussels, which hopes "to keep pigs happy and prevent them chewing each other"—a noble goal, but scarcely the sort of project that must be worked out on a continental level.
How will this play out in practice? The Times spoke to Neville Meeker of Wiltshire, owner of 1,200 pigs. "I have a note here which says toys must be placed in the sties," he said. "I haven't a clue what it means." The paper elaborates: "Yesterday he tried out a plastic aeroplane and a grey furry teddy bear. They seemed to please a small group of piglets, but he was less enthusiastic: 'These toys won't last two minutes. We've got to give them something that is hard-wearing. It has to be durable enough to withstand chewing for at least six months and we can't use wood because that will cause splinter injuries and pieces could get caught in pigs' throats.'"
It's hard to please a pig. Especially the ones in Brussels.
Update: The EU is denouncing the Times' story as an urban legend because its regulations do not specifically call for pigs to be given toys—just "objects or materials for manipulation and exploration." This rather literal-minded retort misses the point. British farmers aren't upset because they think Brussels is telling them to buy tickle-me-Elmo dolls for their livestock. They're upset that bureaucrats in another country are micromanaging the upkeep of English pigs.
That said, it's always a mistake to believe what one reads in the London press, and I did pass along one inaccuracy. Farmers who violate the pig statute will not face jail time, though they could be fined up to ?2,500.
[Correction via Light of Reason.]