South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon has led a debate in the House of Commons calling on Ministers to do more to support the UK’s hard-pressed pig farmers, following the introduction on 1st January 2013 of strict new EU rules aimed at protecting pig welfare.
Most EU countries have not adapted their farming systems to comply with the new rules, despite having had a decade to get ready, so that there is now a serious risk of increased imports of illegally produced meat. In 1999 the UK voluntarily introduced the new higher welfare standards which have recently become compulsory throughout the EU.
Mr Bacon called for government help in making the supply chain for pork and pork products fully traceable and transparent, so that retailers, processors and the government itself as a buyer do not import illegally produced pork into Britain from European farms that fail to meet the new legal standards.
Mr Bacon said: “Poor harvests last year have resulted in high feed costs, meaning that many of the UK’s pig farmers are already under heavy financial pressure.
“If the EU’s illegal farms either complied as they should do, or got out of the pig industry, this would create a brighter future for those who have invested and worked hard to make sure the pork they produce is legal. There are three steps the Government can take to improve matters.
“First, the Government must ensure that there is absolute clarity in its Buying Standards for pork and other pig meat products, ensuring traceability from farm to fork. The public sector is a big buyer of food - for the armed forces, schools, the NHS and other public sector bodies - and taxpayers have every right to expect that their money will never be used for the purchasing of illegally produced meat.
“Second, retailers and food service companies must also be encouraged to operate a fully traceable supply chain so that they can guarantee that the pork they are selling is legal.
“Finally, the Government must press the European Commission for effective enforcement action. The UK is one of just ten EU Member States which are fully compliant with the pig welfare Directive. The other 17 Member States have had over a decade to prepare for this moment and any further delay is completely unacceptable”.
On 1 January 2013, European Council Directive 2008/120/EC came into force across the EU. The Directive lays down minimum standards for the protection of pigs and sets out a range of requirements for their welfare, most notably, a partial ban of the use of sow stalls during pregnancy.
The UK has been fully compliant with these standards since 1999 and 1 January 2013 was the final deadline for pig farmers across Europe to comply with these regulations. However, many farms in the EU’s biggest pork producing countries, such as Germany, France and Denmark, remain non-compliant with the Directive. Illegally produced pork is finding its way into the UK supply chain, forcing down prices and, along with the poor harvest and high feed cost, increasing the pressure on the UK’s pig farmers yet further.
30 January 2013
SPEECHES: The European Pig Industry