NPA welcomes Minister's commitment to 'collective approach' on farrowing crates
22nd Jun 2022 / By Alistair Driver
The NPA has welcomed a commitment by Farming Minister Victoria Prentis to work ‘carefully and sensitively’ with the pig industry on any moves to ban farrowing crates.
During a debate on the use of cages in farming, also covering the use of cages for poultry, in the House of Commons on Monday, Mrs Prentis made it clear she was mindful of the impact that a proposal to phase out farrowing crates would have on pig producers, given the torrid time they are going through. She also insisted the Government does not intend to ‘offshore our animal welfare harms’.
Commencing the debate, sparked by a petition from Compassion in World Farming that attracted more than 100,000 signatures, Conservative MP Matt Vickers called for a ban on the use of fixed farrowing crates for sows. He acknowledged that farrowing crates ‘rightly seek to prevent the death of piglets by crushing’, but said ‘scientific evidence has shown that sow welfare is severely compromised in farrowing crates’.
However, along with other MPs who spoke during the debate, he stressed that ‘anything done in this space must be done with farmers, not to farmers’.
“Now is the time to work with the industry to find a way forward that protects both piglets and sows, supports our farmers during the transition, and ensures that those farmers remain competitive,” he said.
Defra has made it clear for some time that it is examining the future of farrowing crates, but no consultation has been forthcoming as yet, as the complex issues around such a ban are considered, in discussion with the NPA and others, and particularly in the context of the current industry crisis.
Commenting on Defra’s position on farrowing crates Mrs Prentis stressed that it has been an extremely difficult year for pig farmers and highlighted that 40% of UK sows are kept outdoors.
“The pig sector also gives us the clearest evidence of what happens when we ban a system without having a plan to help the industry through it. The ban on sow stalls 23 years ago led to a 40% decline in the UK’s pig production statistics, which, truthfully, we have never recovered from,” she said.
Reiterating sentiments expressed by MPs during the debate she added: “We must not offshore our animal welfare harms, because that would do the pig world as a whole no good at all. There are difficulties—we are bound by World Trade Organisation rules, of course—but active work is being done to establish how, if we banned a system here, we could ban imports from that system. We are working hard on that, but these things are not easy.
Mrs Prentis confirmed that Defra’s consultation on pig farrowing crates was ‘not quite ready, particularly the impact assessment on costs, and this is an industry that has really struggled over the past year’.
“The consultation is still being worked on and clearly further work is needed,” she said. “I am very much in touch with the pig industry, as we come through what has been a very difficult period. We continue to work collectively.”
She concluded: “The Government are committed to phasing out confinement systems and supporting the industry to do so, not least to underpin UK food security. However, we need to work carefully and sensitively with the pig and poultry industries, which are both struggling with some difficult input costs and other challenges at the moment.”
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “This was a useful debate, as it highlighted that all parties accept that any moves to phase out farrowing crates must be done with farmers, and not in a way that would impose unsustainable costs on already-beleaguered producers and allow in cheaper imports of pork produced using systems outlawed here.
“MPs have listened to our arguments, and we are pleased Minister Prentis is adopting a sensible approach, especially in the context of our ongoing financial crisis. We welcome her commitment to a collective approach.”
EU position on farrowing crates
During the debate, Labour MP Justin Madders mentioned the EU's position, saying: We know that the European Commission plans to ban cages for all farmed animals, hopefully by 2027."
Zoe pointed out that the Commission has said it will assess the feasibility of working towards the proposed legislation entering into force from 2027, although they haven’t yet consulted yet on this.
"However, in reality, 2027 is very unrealistic, given all the issues and costs involved and that the EU industry is pushing for a much longer phase-out period," she said.
You can read more about the EU's position HERE