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Foot-and-mouth anniversary highlights the risks of feeding swill to pigs
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Pig industry moves to red
March 11, 2014
"It is impossible to overstate the damage PEDv would cause if it arrived in Britain," said veterinarian Derek Armstrong, of BPEX. "The evidence from the States is that it is so outstandingly infectious that just one infected pig is all it would take to start an epidemic in this country which could kill as much as ten percent of the national herd."
Foot-and-mouth anniversary highlights the risks of feeding
On the 13th anniversary of Britain's most serious outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, National Pig Association is reminding Government and the public of the need for continued vigilance.
The reminder comes in the same week that African swine fever, another serious notifiable disease, is reported in Poland, carried across the border from Belarus by a wild boar, and putting the European Union commercial pig industry at increased risk of infection.
Foot-and-mouth was confirmed on February 20 at an Essex abattoir, in swill-fed pigs from Burnside Farm at Heddon on the Wall in Northumberland. Some estimates put the total cost to the nation at £10 billion, with more than 10 million animals being shot in the nine-month drive to stamp out the disease.
Government later confirmed the likeliest source of infection was meat contaminated with the foot-and-mouth virus being fed to pigs at Burnside Farm in inadequately processed swill. Swill-feeding has since been banned throughout the European Union.
NPA highlights the following lessons from the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak:
"A carelessly discarded ham sandwich is all it takes, or someone breaking the law and feeding kitchen leftovers to pigs," said NPA chairman Richard Longthorp. "If anyone thinks we are over-stating the risk, let them remember what happened on February 20, 2001 and the lives and businesses that were ruined as a result."
Time to say goodbye
Above: How it should be done—Dalehead's lorry-wash at Spalding.
National Pig Association is polling pig producers on lorry washes at Britain's abattoirs, with a view to publishing a league table. The association hopes when abattoirs see how they are rated against their competitors, the poorest performers will be encouraged to invest in improved lorry-washing facilities.
Many pig producers and hauliers consider sub-standard lorry washes to be the weakest link in the industry's armoury against endemic diseases such as swine dysentery, and imported diseases such as African swine fever and porcine epidemic diarrhoea.
Disease can be spread rapidly from farm to farm by livestock lorries, unless hauliers are able to properly wash and disinfect their vehicles every time they deliver pigs to an abattoir. But washing facilities at most abattoirs are reported by pig producers and hauliers to be inadequate.
British pig producers are particularly concerned at present about the risk of foreign diseases entering Britain and spreading quickly through a naive pig population.
There is a threat of the notifiable disease African swine fever being imported from Russia, the Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania. And in the States and Canada, highly virulent Chinese strains of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea are laying waste to hundreds of pig units.
Both viruses are harmless to humans, but they are fatal to pigs if they are carried onto farms on lorry tyres or on the boots and clothes of humans.
Early results from producer voting suggest the Dalehead Foods recently modernised and now world-class abattoir at Spalding in Lincolnshire will top the NPA league table with the best lorry-washing facilities. But it is too soon to say which abattoirs will occupy the bottom places in the league table as producers are still voting in the poll.
"Abattoirs may be reluctant to invest in modern lorry-washing facilities because they see it as dead money but this is short-sighted. They rely on a reliable supply of British pigs, so it should really be at the top of their agenda," said NPA chairman Richard Longthorp.
"By committing now to improvements in lorry-wash facilities, processors have an ideal opportunity to restore their credibility with pig producers and take biosecurity a quantum leap forwards.
"We need good lorry washing facilities which in turn will encourage all hauliers to ensure their vehicles are thoroughly washed and disinfected before they depart to collect another load of pigs."
Winter Olympics pose heightened
Border Force officers will be paying special attention to passengers returning from the Winter Olympics in Sochi, in a bid to prevent African swine fever entering Britain in contaminated meat products, according to food and farming minister George Eustice.
In a letter to National Pig Association chairman Richard Longthorp—in which he commends the association's proactive stance on keeping Britain free of imported diseases—he says the Border Force recognises the Winter Olympics as a period of particular importance.
Following the recent discovery that some shops in Russia have been selling meat products contaminated with the African swine fever virus, NPA is particularly concerned about passengers innocently returning with food from Russia and eastern European countries.
African swine fever can survive in raw, cured, cooked and even frozen meats for months, and if any infected meat found its way onto a British pig farm—for instance in a discarded ham sandwich—it would cause havoc in the nation's pig industry.
African swine fever is harmless to humans but fatal to pigs and if it arrived in this country it would mean the compulsory slaughter of pigs in affected areas and the loss of Britain's fast-growing pork export market with non-European Union countries.
Noting the recent spread of the virus from Russia to the Ukraine and Belarus, and now across the European Union border into Lithuania, George Eustice has promised that if the situation deteriorates and the virus spreads from wild boar in Lithuania to domestic pigs, Brussels will introduce extra controls and Defra will work with the Border Force "to ensure the travelling public are aware of the restrictions and to undertake checks on passengers".
NPA has called on Government to introduce in-flight announcements on flights from Lithuania and to introduce leaflets and warning posters at all border posts.
Welcoming the minister's prompt response to NPA's concerns, and his pledge to introduce extra measures should African swine fever continue to spread, Richard Longthorp said, "We—that is the pig industry and Government—must do all we can to ensure African swine fever, or any other exotic disease, does not get into the United Kingdom.
"The loss of exports valued at £350m would be devastating to the pig industry, a loss to United Kingdom trade, and would undermine all the great work that the pig industry and Defra have put into developing export markets for British pork and high-performance breeding pigs."
British pig farmers have been on heightened alert ever since African swine fever was carried into Lithuania by wild boar, as many British farms employ east European workers who pose a risk when they return from holidays or receive gifts from home.
NPA is in the process of preparing its own leaflets and posters and will be contacting airlines and airport authorities for help deploying them.
Pig farmers call on Government
The National Pig Association is calling on Government to step up defences against African swine fever, which is harmless to humans but fatal to pigs. It wants Britain to increase security at border posts to prevent contaminated meat being carried illegally into the country.
Otherwise, it warns, Britain could lose its fast-growing pork export market with non-European Union countries.
The disease, which can survive for months in raw, cured, cooked and even frozen meat, has advanced from Russia and Belarus into Lithuania, and now threatens to be carried further into the European Union by infected wild boar.
NPA chairman Richard Longthorp has called on food and farms minister George Eustice to press for a poster and leaflet campaign at border posts, and in-flight announcements on planes arriving from Lithuania.
African swine fever is a notifiable disease and if it arrives in this country it has the potential to seriously damage the nation's pig industry, with animals being slaughtered en masse and a ban on British pork exports, which account for nearly a quarter of pig farmers' income.
"The United Kingdom pig industry is just emerging from its own recession created by high feed prices, and to be struck with African swine fever now would be a blow from which some would not recover," he said in a letter to the minister.
"We—that is the pig industry and Government—must do all we can to ensure African swine fever, or any other exotic disease, does not spread to the United Kingdom.
"The loss of exports valued at £350m would be devastating to the pig industry, a loss to United Kingdom trade, and would undermine all the great work that the pig industry and Defra have put into developing export markets for British pork and high-performance breeding pigs."
If Britain does not act quickly, there could be a repetition of the personal and financial trauma the country's livestock farmers suffered in the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001, he warned.
Supermarkets step up to
The English pig industry's latest survey of supermarket shelves shows retailers have increased their support for British-farmed pork, ham and sausages over the past 12 months.
The Porkwatch survey, which is conducted every two months, records the number of product lines that supermarkets allocate to British pork and pork products.
All retailers have increased their British lines in some categories and some have improved across the board, selling more British pork, bacon, ham and sausages.
"These results show that retailers are listening to their customers," said National Pig Association acting general manager Lizzie Press. "We are delighted with the current trend because it is allowing pig farmers to reinvest in their businesses after three very difficult years caused by high feed costs."
NPA chairman Richard Longthorp said, "Shoppers often used to choose British meat where possible, but Horsegate has proved a game-changer and now many are insisting it must be British.
We are grateful to retailers for the way they have stepped up to the mark, even when cheaper imported product has been available."
The most recent Porkwatch survey shows the following year-on-year improvements:
Overall British ham shelf facings are up 3.9 percent year-on-year, whilst sausages are up 3.5 percent and pork is up 1.5 percent (from an already high base). But bacon is down 7.4 percent and NPA will be urging retailers to improve their number of British bacon shelf facings in 2014.
Notable among retailers for their long-term support of British-farmed meat are Waitrose and M&S, both achieving 100 percent British, or very near it, in all pork and pork product categories.
The Porkwatch survey is conducted on behalf of English pig industry levy board BPEX.
Why the 'Pig Idea' is a non-starter
November 20, 2013
The Pig Idea's Feeding the 5000 event in Trafalgar Square tomorrow is a superficially attractive concept, promoted by well-meaning people, but it is destined to fail because it is fundamentally unsafe, and consequently the European Union will not be persuaded to lift its zero-tolerance ban on feeding swill to pigs.
Even if it did, the idea could not work commercially, because the overwhelming majority of British pig farmers, refuse to contemplate feeding swill, because of the disease risk involved and because they are opposed to cannibalistic feeding on ethical and food safety grounds.
The National Pig Association is opposed to feeding swill because even if the practice were to be allowed by law, inevitably there would, sooner or later, be a regulatory breakdown in one or more of the European Union's 28 member countries, with consequent serious disease risk.
The British pig industry already uses 1.23m tonnes a year of co-product from the human food chain and this accounts for 43.9 percent of total pig feed produced.
"Pig producers prefer to describe "waste food" as "co-product" because, in the pig industry's view, no food is waste if it can be used safely in nutritious pig diets," said NPA chairman Richard Longthorp.
"But any waste food we use must be clean, wholesome, contain zero porcine material and must have an independently-audited supply chain that is strictly controlled and regulated. Pig farmers stand ready to do everything they can to recycle waste food — but that does not mean they are prepared to let their animals become society's dustbins."
Notifiable diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease, classical swine fever and African swine fever can survive in meat for long periods and are easily transferred from meat to other produce, which is why feeding some waste foods to pigs is so problematic. These diseases are easily transferred between pigs and some can infect other livestock species too, so they can spread quickly.
Given the prevalence around the world of foot-and-mouth disease, classical swine fever and African swine fever, and the free movement of people, vehicles and goods, some of these diseases could be present in the European Union at any time and the only way to prevent economically-debilitating national outbreaks is to prevent the viruses coming into contact with farm animals.
Feeding untreated waste food to pigs has been directly responsible for major notifiable disease outbreaks around the world, including the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak in Britain. The current African swine fever outbreak in Russia continues to spread, as a result of illegal movements and feeding of infected waste food to pigs. The disease remains out of control and there is a risk it could spread to the European Union.
Don't be the person who causes
September 3, 2013
Environmental activists who want to see a lifting of the European Union ban on feeding kitchen and catering waste to pigs may be sending confusing signals to hobby pig-keepers, warns the National Pig Association.
NPA's newly-launched Don't Kill Me With Kindness campaign explains that feeding kitchen and catering waste carries a penalty of up to two years in jail because it risks introducing costly and damaging disease epidemics to Britain.
Don't do it, urges NPA. You wouldn't want to be the person who is blamed for a new epidemic.
The 2001 foot-and-mouth epidemic was caused by feeding inadequately treated catering waste to pigs. It took nine months to bring under control, during which time ten million pigs, sheep and cattle were slaughtered, and it cost the country £8 billion.
In Britain and throughout the European Union it is illegal to feed raw or cooked catering waste to pigs, including waste from household kitchens.
It is permissible to feed pigs fruit and vegetables direct from the garden or allotment, but feeding waste from the kitchen is illegal — even raw or cooked left-over vegetables, as these may have come into contact with raw or cooked meats.
NPA's 'Don't kill me with kindness' campaign invites pig-keepers and caterers to visit NPA's 'Why feeding kitchen waste is illegal' website page to get the facts.
"Whilst NPA understands why people may think feeding waste foodmakes perfect sense, we want everyone who keeps pigs to follow the law to the letter because we feel that the stakes are too high," said NPA general manager Dr. Zoe Davies.
"Pig-keepers are responsible members of society and we think there is more chance they will obey the law scrupulously if we explain the reasons for not feeding any kitchen waste — and that's what our campaign seeks to do."
To any pig-keepers who are convinced that their particular kitchen waste is safe, NPA warns, "You cannot be completely confident no cross contamination has taken place, so please just willingly obey the law."
These days, better control mechanisms are in place and it is hoped the next outbreak will be brought under control more quickly. "But any outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, classical swine fever or African swine fever will mean the slaughter of farm animals, a ban on moving animals in at-risk areas, and the loss of export markets," said Dr Davies.
"Aside from the emotional distress caused, these diseases have a massive economic impact, not only on the affected farms, but on the local community, local businesses and every pig farm in the country for many years.
"Rather than take unacceptable risks by feeding catering waste to pigs, we think it is more sensible to tackle waste further up the chain, so that far less of it is wasted at manufacturing, retail and household level. If we could achieve that as a society, then well-meaning environmentalists would not have to worry so much about the amount of waste food that is currently going into landfill."
Foot-and-mouth, classical swine fever and African swine fever are opportunistic and persistent diseases. They can live for months, sometimes years, in raw and processed meat.
And at any time they may be present in countries that export fresh, frozen and processed meats to Britain. They can also arrive in this country in fresh and cooked foods carried by holidaymakers, visitors and people working here. They can even survive on clothing for up to a fortnight.
Why feeding kitchen waste is illegal: www.npa-uk.org.uk/disease.html
Retailers edging towards
August 16, 2013
National Pig Association is worried that the foundations for the next food scandal are already being laid by some retailers as they edge away from the shorter supply chains they promised following Horsegate.
NPA has noted a number of pork, bacon and gammon lines being switched back to imported product, because it is marginally cheaper.
It is not naming the retailers concerned until it has had meetings with them to find out their reasons for retreating from their post-Horsegate promises to introduce short supply chains.
Since the heat has come off the horsemeat scandal we've started to see retailers sliding back from the strong British position they publicly adopted, and import more European product," said NPA general manager Dr Zoe Davies.
"Consumers expect supermarkets to deliver on their post-Horsegate commitments to shorten their supply chains by buying safe food produced in Britain. If they think they can return to their old habits as soon as our backs are turned they had better think again, because we won’t let this matter drop and nor will our friends in the National Farmers Union.”
Britain imports around 60 percent of its pork and pork products and NPA believes this could be reduced if all retailers were genuinely committed to building shorter supply chain agreements with British producers.
We’re backing Britain, says NPA
August 14, 2013
Everyone will win if Britain’s pig farmers, with their uniquely high standards of husbandry, are encouraged to gently expand and reduce the nation’s yawning balance of trade gap in pork and pork products, says the National Pig Association.
The association is throwing its weight behind the Back British Farming Charter launched today by the National Farmers Union, which calls for shoppers, food companies and politicians to help reverse the decline in the nation’s food self-sufficiency.
“Around 60 percent of the pork products we eat in this country — including bacon, sausages and ham — are imported through sometimes tortuous supply chains,” said NPA general manager Zoe Davies.
“With a bit of encouragement, our pig farmers could be persuaded to gently step up production and the whole country will benefit as a result.”
British pig farmers delight their customers in many ways:
EATING QUALITY — Most pig farm staff receive continuous specialist training in how to ensure the animals they look after are stress-free, which in turn means tender, better-tasting pork.
SHORTER SUPPLY CHAINS — Food companies selling British pork and pork products can trace their products back to their farms of origin, giving consumers added confidence in the food they buy.
REAL WELFARE — Over 90 percent of British pigs benefit from quarterly visits by specialist pig vets, who check and record a range of welfare indicators recommended by animal scientists.
COUNTRYSIDE ECONOMICS — Pig farms make a huge contribution to the countryside as they employ more staff than many forms of agriculture and are also significant users of local trades and suppliers.
BALANCE OF PAYMENTS — In many parts of Britain pig farms have all but disappeared, so there is plenty of scope for the nation to reduce its dependance on imports of the world’s favourite meat.
FOOD SAFETY — The recent Horsegate scandal showed that consumers cannot always trust convoluted supply chains from overseas suppliers and that short local supply chains are best.
FOOD SECURITY — Most forecasters see global food supplies tightening over the years ahead and the time will come when Britain has to rely much more on its own food resources, just as it had to during the Second World War.
A recent One Poll survey has revealed that 78 percent of consumers want supermarkets to stock more British food.
“As an industry we have had a challenging decade but the realisation has dawned that as a nation we can’t simply go around the world chasing the cheapest deal for our food,” according to NFU president Peter Kendall.
“So, instead we need to look closer to home. Right across the board farmers have a fantastic natural capacity to produce more British food, given the right market signals and the confidence to invest.”
NFU’s Back British Farming Charter can be signed here: www.farmingdelivers.co.uk
NPA calls for food companies to ban
all imports from 'medieval' farms
August 5, 2013
Seven months after the European Union introduced a ban on keeping sows in stalls (except for the first four weeks of pregnancy) half of European Union countries have failed to clamp down on pig farms where sows are illegally confined for most of their lives.
Therefore retailers and food manufacturers must continue to be vigilant, warns Britain's National Pig Association. It argues that British consumers expect all imported pork and pork products to be traceable back to farms that comply with the European Union's January 2013 ban on the full-time use of sow stalls.
According to new data from the European Commission only 13 member countries are fully compliant — Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Malta, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Sow stalls have been banned outright in the United Kingdom since 1999.
The Commission started infringement proceedings against nine countries in February — Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Poland and Portugal. The Netherlands, Italy, Hungary, Finland, and Slovenia are still being investigated.
NPA has been praised by Government for its "Wall of Fame" campaign to persuade retailers and food companies to pledge they will not import pork and pork products from non-compliant pig farms on the continent. The association is currently carrying out a number of spot checks, to ensure companies that made the Wall of Fame pledge at www.npa-uk.org.uk are sticking to their word.
One hundred leading companies and brands have pledged total traceability for the imported pork and pork products they sell, including most major retailers and leading foodservice companies such as McDonald's, Costa, and Premier Inn.
"Sow stalls are narrow cages. They make life easier for pig farmers, but they are medieval in the eyes of British consumers because the sows spend most of their lives being able to do little more than stand up and lie down," said NPA general manager Dr Zoe Davies. "The response to our campaign for traceable higher-welfare pork for British consumers has been outstanding — far better than we ever envisaged."
NPA is confident that the pledges on its Wall of Fame at www.npa-uk.org.uk have helped reduce the flow of pork from illegally-operated farms. At the beginning of the year NPA estimated as many as 40,000 pigs an hour were being delivered to continental processing plants from illegally-operated pig farms. As Britain imports around 60 percent of its processed pork it was feared that many British consumers were unwittingly supporting the trade in illegally-farmed pigs.
NPA calls for help keeping
July 8, 2013
NPA has asked everyone in British agriculture to help keep a new pig disease out of Europe. Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea virus has been present in this country in a mild form for over 40 years. But new strains which have spread from China to the United States are wiping out whole generations of newly-born pigs — and there is no effective treatment.
It is essential the new strains are kept out of Britain, says NPA. It is calling for everyone involved in farming to adopt a number of extra-precautionary measures for the time being.
In addition to its general advice to everyone in British agriculture, NPA is advising all pig-keepers to contact their vet if they see unusual clinical problems with diarrhoea, particularly in piglets.
Producers should also work with their nutritionist, feed supplier and vet to check the provenance of nutritional products used on their farm, and consider whether any might pose an unacceptable risk.
NPA says that as a matter of principle no meat products should ever be allowed onto pig units, because of their potential to introduce serious diseases such as Foot and Mouth Disease, Classical Swine Fever, African Swine Fever, and perhaps the new virulent strains of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea.
NPA is asking all pig-keepers — including hobby farmers — to run a critical eye over all their current biosecurity measures and see where they can be improved.
And it is urging genetics companies to think carefully before importing live pigs from the States for the time being, regardless of the high level of biosecurity usually attached to such shipments.
If the new acute strains of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea virus spread to Britain they could have an impact every bit as bad as PMWS (Postweaning Multisystemic Wasting Syndrome) which arrived in Britain from mainland Europe about 13 years ago and contributed to a halving of the national herd, only coming under control in recent years, here and around the world, following the introduction of highly effective vaccines.
The current outbreak in the States, which is still spreading, is causing losses of up to 100 percent of affected piglets and has been reported on over 200 units in 13 states since May. The virus from the outbreak in the States is said to be 99.4 percent similar to an outbreak in China which has killed more than a million piglets since October 2010.
Waste food campaign poses disease
June 7, 2013
National Pig Association has warned that recycling human food by feeding it to pigs must take place only under strictly-controlled conditions, otherwise there is a risk of outbreaks of notifiable diseases, such as foot-and-mouth, classical swine fever and African swine fever.
NPA's warning comes as well-meaning "Pig Idea" environmental campaigners call for more left-over foods to be fed to pigs as swill.
Whilst recognising that feeding pigs properly-treated and rigorously-tested foods such as unsold bread and vegetables can deliver significant environmental benefits, NPA warns that there is always a risk of regulatory breakdown, as happened in the 2001 national foot-and-mouth outbreak, when infected swill was fed to pigs on a Northumberland unit.
"We don't want this campaign to give the public the mistaken impression that it is alright to feed waste food to pigs," said National Pig Association general manager Dr Zoe Davies.
Feeding waste food from catering establishments including home kitchens and restaurants — even if it is only vegetables — has been banned since the 2001 national foot-and-mouth outbreak, which devastated countryside tourism and livestock farming and caused over six million farm animals to be compulsorily slaughtered.
The law also covers waste foodfrom other premises, including food factories and distribution warehouses, that contains or has been in contact with animal by-products such as raw eggs, meat and fish products. None of these items may be fed to pigs, including pigs kept as pets.
"We appreciate that the Pig Idea campaigners have the best of intentions and have been at pains to explain all the legal issues but we remain concerned that promoting the image of pigs eating waste food is unhelpful," said Zoe Davies.
"The pig industry already uses over a million tonnes per year of by-product from food manufacturing, but only as part of a tightly-regulated and audited process."
NPA Chris Brant Award
June 5, 2013
Winner of this year's NPA Chris Brant Award is Jonathan French, key accounts manager for a national feed compounder in the south of England. The award is presented annually to someone who goes the extra mile for the British industry.
Several west country pig producers nominated Jonathan French. "He is the hardest working, most committed, caring individual you could possibly wish to have associated with your pig business," said one.
Another said, "I appreciate he has a vested interest in us paying our feed bills, but his help and advice goes further than that. When we had a fire over a year ago he was at my farm at 6.15 in the morning, to help me out".
And another said, "He is pioneering — organising seminars with international speakers and taking farmers around Europe to open their eyes to the latest best-practice. He's always at the end of the phone on evenings and weekends and is desperate for his farmers to improve and succeed".
Announcing the winner, NPA chairman Richard Longthorp said Jonathan French typified the high calibre of people serving the British pig sector. "I believe the relationship of mutual respect and appreciation that exists between pig producers and the allied industries is unique in the farming industry. It is something that I, and all the NPA team, are intensely proud of."
The award was presented, at a ceremony at East of England Showground, by last year's Chris Brant Award winner, pig industry independent valuer and adviser Peter Crichton.
Jonathan French, who is Pig Key Account Manager for BOCM PAULS' South Business Unit, said, "I am flattered to receive the Chris Brant award, particularly as it is run and judged by pig producers' own organisation, the National Pig Association, and is judged by pig producers themselves. This is an outstanding industry to work in and I pay tribute to all the decent, hard-working pig-keepers I have the privilege to work with in my job."
The NPA Chris Brant Award is named after producer and pig industry activist Chris Brant, who died in July 2009. Chris Brant embodied all that was good about the industry — he was hard-working, blunt, rambunctious, a talented pig producer and as straight as a gun barrel. And he never failed to step up to the mark when his industry needed his help.
The award rules state, "The Chris Brant Award is not about doing your paid job well, or even about doing it very well. It's about consistently going the extra mile on behalf of the industry, without thought of personal reward."
This year's award judges were NPA chairman Richard Longthorp, last year's winner, Peter Crichton, and Oxfordshire producer Sally Stockings. Previous winners: John Cusson, Chris Brant, Lynda Davies, John Millard, Richard Longthorp, John Rowbottom, Fred Henley, Hugh Crabtree, Nigel Penlington, Nick White, Peter Crichton.
British pig farmers need
May 3, 2013
Britain needs to see a 'gentle and gradual' renewal of its pig industry, leading to more efficient food production and a reduction in the nation's food import bill, says the National Pig Association.
It will also mean more environmentally-friendly farming, and it will help maintain the nation's reputation for being one of the world's highest-welfare pig producing countries.
Currently British farms produce only 40 percent of Britain's pork and pork products, the rest being imported from countries where pigs are generally produced more intensively.
NPA would like to see home-production gradually increase to 50 percent. But this can only happen if pig farmers have the confidence to replace older buildings, which are less efficient than their modern counterparts and are sometimes in unsuitable locations.
NPA is concerned that aggressive opposition to planning applications for new pig units is in danger of halting the pig sector's process of gentle and gradual renewal.
It is urging local residents who are concerned about any proposed development in their area to talk directly to the farmer concerned and then to trust their own judgement, rather than allow the views of pressure groups to be foisted upon them.
Unlike the key pig-producing countries on the continent, Britain has a low density of pigs, which British producers consider a prerequisite for healthy, high-welfare production.
With this in mind, NPA is critical of pressure groups that oppose applications for new pig units in this country by cherry-picking research carried out in pig-dense countries, and then claiming a relevance to Britain.
For instance, one pressure group has raised the spectre of MRSA bacteria spreading from pigs to people in Britain — but MRSA has not been detected in livestock in this country, because of the low density of pigs.
Pressure groups have also sought to represent plans for ordinary farm-scale pig buildings as "mega" developments.
"We understand that some people would like to see a return to smaller-scale subsistence farming and we respect their right to express this view," said Dr Zoe Davies, general manager of NPA. "And we understand some groups may feel a need to create alarm in order to raise funds, but we do ask that they refrain from misrepresenting modern commercial husbandry which has much to commend it in terms of economic viability, protection of the environment and animal welfare."
"Exercise Compliance" will
The British pig industry will this week start checking that pork from illegal European Union farms is not entering the British food chain.
Misplaced “mega farm”
April 22, 2013
Growing urbanisation of the British countryside is threatening national food production, says the National Pig Association. It is particularly concerned that even planning applications for traditional part-time pig units are now meeting with opposition.
Britain already imports around 60 percent of its pork and pork products — usually from less welfare-friendly farms — and this figure is set to rise unless farmers are encouraged to invest in new more efficient and environmentally-friendly buildings.
NPA has identified a growing trend for vegan groups and other single-interest lobby groups to become involved in planning applications, using misinformation to frighten local residents into opposing new and replacement pig farms.
“In the past, pig farmers who wanted to build a new pig unit, usually to replace inefficient old buildings, could work constructively with local residents to address any concerns they might have,” said NPA general manager Dr Zoe Davies.
“But now they are being targeted by aggressive single-issue organisations with no local connections. We have even heard of pig farmers who have received threatening phone calls and emails from the other side of the world, accusing them of being ‘factory farmers’, which they most certainly are not.”
One of the problems, according to NPA, is that since the attempt to build a US-style “super dairy” at Nocton in Lincolnshire three years ago, vegan groups have pounced on all proposed livestock housing developments, describing them as “mega farms” and “factory farms”.
There are no “mega” pig farms in Britain and no applications to build any, says NPA. Most pig applications are for modest-sized pig units which will be part of a traditional mixed farm, where the pigs eat the grain grown on the farm and provide organic manure for the crops, in place of chemical fertilisers.
Even applications for larger pig units which will operate as stand-alone businesses bear no comparison to the large pig units being constructed in the United States, says NPA. And unlike most of Europe’s key pig-producing countries, Britain has a very small pig population, so the problem of local pig density does not arise.
So concerned is NPA about the growing opposition to new and replacement pig units, it intends to produce a leaflet for planning authorities and local residents, putting the size of new developments in perspective.
It will point out, for example, that a building for 1,500 finisher pigs falls far short of being a “mega farm”, being a modest venture that will not provide a living income on its own, but will add a small extra income to a farm business that might otherwise struggle to be sustainable.
In contrast the average commercial finisher unit in, say, the United States will have 12 or more such buildings.
And in the States most pigs are born on breeding units housing 5,000-10,000 sows — more than double even the largest breeding units in Britain and more than ten times the size of an average British breeding unit.
“I would urge all planning authorities to recognise that investment in farming is essential to keep the countryside alive,” said NPA chairman Richard Longthorp.
“And people who live in villages but drive into towns and cities every day to work, should consider the needs of those who work in the rural economy and who keep the countryside alive whilst they are away during the day.
“They should remember that pig farms employ a huge number of people indirectly, including hauliers, millers, meat plants, electricians, plumbers and builders.”
NPA contends that for many people, a modern pig unit makes a far better neighbour than, say, a new housing estate. New pig buildings are far more neighbour-friendly than the older buildings they replace, being quieter and usually screened. And smell is far less of a problem these days, and with sensitive management can be eliminated altogether.
April 8, 2013
Nominations sought for
National Pig Association is seeking nominations for its Chris Brant Award which annually recognises someone who has contributed beyond the call of duty to the British pig industry.
"We will be looking for someone who consistently goes the extra mile on behalf of the industry, without thought of direct personal reward," said NPA chairman and award sponsor Richard Longthorp, who farms near Howden, in East Yorkshire. Nominations can be made via the NPA website at npa-uk.org.uk.
The award was renamed in 2009 in recognition of Yorkshire pig producer Chris Brant, who died in the summer of that year. Noisy, blunt, rambunctious and straight as a gun barrel, he never failed to step up to the mark when the industry needed his help.
This year's judges will be Richard Longthorp, last year's winner Peter Crichton, and Oxfordshire pig producer Sally Stockings. Last year's winner was Bury St Edmunds independent adviser and valuer Peter Crichton, who was chosen for his compassion and kindness when helping pig producers in difficulty.
Many of the past winners of the Chris Brant Award have been associated with direct action organisation the British Pig Industry Support Group, including Burton on Trent consultant Nick White, Berkshire ventilation specialist Hugh Crabtree, Yorkshire pig producers Fred Henley and John Rowbottom and Yorkshire feed adviser John Cusson.
The award will be presented at NPA's Summer Event in June, which this year will be held at Peterborough.
April 5, 2013
Britain's leading food companies pledge total
traceability on all
National Pig Association's Wall of Fame has reached a milestone this month, with one hundred leading brands pledging total traceability for the imported pork and pork products they sell.
"The response to our campaign for traceable higher-welfare pork for British consumers has been outstanding — far, far better than we ever envisaged," said NPA chairman Richard Longthorp.
NPA called on Britain's major food companies, including retailers, to check their supply lines forensically, and to boycott all pork and pork products from illegally-operated continental farms.
According to recent data from Brussels, over 60 percent of European Union countries are failing to comply with new animal welfare rules and pregnant sows are still being confined in narrow individual cages known as "stalls" for most of their lives.
"The response was slow to start with but then 'Horsegate' erupted and food companies suddenly realised how vital it is that they know exactly where the raw materials they import come from," said NPA general manager Dr Zoe Davies.
"It is clear from the responses we have had that these companies have taken our challenge very seriously and on behalf of British consumers we thank them for their responsible stance."
NPA is confident that the pledges on its Wall of Fame at www.npa-uk.org.uk have helped reduce the flow of pork from illegally-operated farms. It is now calling on all European countries to clean up their act and comply with European Union welfare legislation.
"British consumers can be confident that most of the pork and pork products on British supermarket shelves is traceable and is produced to the high welfare standards they expect," said Richard Longthorp. "British pig farmers have, of course, exceeded European welfare requirements for many years, and British pork is traceable back to its farm of origin."
"We will continue to accept pledges for our Wall of Fame and will shortly start to conduct supply-line audits to check the pledges are being honoured. But overall we are extremely satisfied with the progress that has been made so far."
At the beginning of the year NPA estimated as many as 40,000 pigs an hour were being delivered to continental processing plants from illegally-operated pig farms. As Britain imports around 60 percent of its processed pork it was feared that many British consumers were unwittingly supporting the trade in illegally-farmed pigs.
February 11, 2013
Do they ever ask WHY
Supermarket greed is to blame for the Horsegate scandal but it's decent, law-abiding British farmers who are suffering as a result, says Britain's National Pig Association.
The fear of eating contaminated beef has sent shockwaves down the High Street, causing shoppers to be wary of all meat. "The only safe option is to buy British meat, and only British meat," says NPA.
Supermarkets habitually drive meat prices down to well below cost of production. "Where on earth do they think this cheap euromeat is coming from?" demands NPA chairman Richard Longthorp. "If you consistently buy something below the price at which it can be produced, you must know that corners have been cut in quality, or safety, or legality, or all three."
NPA says that although the large supermarkets have only themselves to blame for the current lack of customer trust in the meat products on their shelves, it is British farmers who are suffering most.
"Even though cheap imported europork hasn't been implicated in the Horsegate scandal, the price that British pig farmers get for their safe, high-quality product plummeted by an unprecedented 3p a kilo on Friday," said NPA general manager Dr Zoe Davies.
"Our pig farmers are already making a loss as supermarkets import increasing quantities of cheap pork from the continent and for some this latest blow may well be the straw that breaks the camel's back."
British pig farmers produce safe, high-quality food which is then processed and packed by heavily-regulated British food companies, says NPA. "But that's not good enough for some of our largest retailers. They have to buy cheap-cheap-cheap, and that is what has landed the High Street in its current fear and confusion."
Over 90 percent of British pork is independently audited through the Red Tractor assurance scheme along its entire production process, from the feed that the pigs eat, to the way they are housed and cared for, to the way they are electronically-tracked to meat plants, and to the way the meat is processed, packed and labeled.
"Shoppers can no longer trust many supermarkets but they can trust British meat. They should buy British, and only British," says NPA.
January 23, 2013
Food manufacturers challenged
British pig farmers are challenging food manufacturers, retailers and caterers to give a public commitment that they are not selling illegally-produced meat from farms that are flouting new European welfare legislation outlawing the prolonged confinement of sows in individual cages, known as "stalls".
They have set up a website Wall-of-Fame-and-Shame which will list companies that have pledged to source imported pork products only from farms that are operating legally.
All companies selling imported pork and pork products are being urged by Britain's National Pig Association (NPA) to check their sources of supply very carefully.
"They must be absolutely certain the bacon, sausages, ham, pizzas and other processed pork they sell do not come from farms that are flouting European animal welfare law," says NPA.
Most European Union countries have failed to comply with the European Union's animal welfare directive which from January 2013 bans the prolonged confinement of sows in stalls. Individual sow stalls have been outlawed on British pig units for 14 years. They are so narrow, pigs cannot turn around — all they can do is sit, stand, and lie down.
As many as 40,000 pigs an hour are being delivered to continental processing plants from illegally-operated pig farms, according to NPA calculations.
"As Britain imports around 60 percent of its processed pork it is inevitable that many consumers are unwittingly supporting this unacceptable European trade in illegally-farmed pigs," said NPA general manager Dr Zoe Davies. "Shoppers must be told which British retailers and food companies they can trust not to take part in this trade."
Yorkshire pig farmer John Rowbottom, a member of NPA's policy-making Producer Group, said: "If Brussels cannot police its own rules, then British pig farmers will have to do the job for them. British consumers are being sold pork products from continental farms that are operating illegally.
"It's a gross breach of animal welfare, it is unfair on consumers and it is unfair on British farmers, because it distorts fair trade."
January 22, 2013
Evidence secures big
The Farm Energy Centre (FEC) working on behalf of the NPA have agreed New Climate Change Levy (CCL) targets with the Government which will save the pig industry an estimated £18.5 million over the next 10 years.
The NPA and FEC have been working closely with the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to agree a 22.7 per cent energy saving target which will run from next year until 2023.
We have worked closely with the industry to properly understand where savings can be made in the future, commented FEC Commercial Director Chris Plackett. Our evidence convinced DECC that industry can continue it's previous record of energy saving over the next 10 years, but the previous investments made by farmers meant that the extent of the savings was limited by both the technologies and capital available for investment.