|Press releases 2014
February 23, 2015
Foot-and-mouth anniversary highlights the risks of feeding swill to pigs
'Hundred percenters club' resists lure of tumbling euro
Despite the euro reaching new lows against sterling in recent months, making imported meat as cheap as chips, there have been no deserters from the English pig industry's 'Hundred Percenters Club', according to the latest Porkwatch survey.
These are the retailers who respond to customer preference by sourcing all their fresh pork from British pig farms... Aldi, Budgens, Co-op, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsbury's and Waitrose.
Further good news in the latest Porkwatch survey is that Asda has stuck to its promise to increase its percentage of British pork, stepping up its displays of British from a dismal 58 percent in March to a more respectable 61 percent in the May survey.
But the low value of the euro means home-produced pork is currently over 30p a kilo more than Dutch or Danish pork and the temptation to source less British product is proving too great for a few retailers. For instance, at 65 percent, Tesco is 8 percent down compared to the same time last year.
In summary, the latest Porkwatch results are impressive given the pork price differential between Britain and the continent, but there is some slippage in the bacon, ham and sausage categories, and NPA will be discussing this with the retailers concerned.
It is particularly important for pig farmers that supermarkets continue to support home-produced pork at present, as prices are depressed all over Europe. Some British producers are currently operating at a loss and many more are barely breaking even, despite low feed prices.
The current depression in pig prices is a result of plentiful global supplies of pork, loss of the European Union's export market to Russia, and continuing depressed consumer demand on the continent as a result of economic uncertainty.
One considerable advantage for the British pig industry since April has been the introduction of European Union mandatory country of origin labelling on fresh and frozen pork, which at last makes it possible for shoppers to quickly and accurately identify British product.
• Porkwatch surveys are conducted every other month by professional researchers commissioned on behalf of pig and processor levy-payers.
• In its current 'Keep-It-Up' campaign, NPA argues that retailer sourcing policies highlight the taste, tenderness, welfare and whole-chain assurance qualities of British pork, all of which explain its premium position on supermarket shelves.
• Recent YouGov research found 81 percent of shoppers who buy meat want supermarkets to continue stocking a high level of British meat to maintain consumer confidence, 65 percent believe importing more European pork not produced under food assurance schemes like Red Tractor could increase risk of another Horsegate style scandal, and only 19 percent said they wanted more cheaper European pork imports to keep down prices.
Sainsbury's proves foodservice customers want British meat
NPA awards its first Fellowship
The National Pig Association has awarded its first Lifetime Fellowship, in recognition of exceptional service to the British pig industry.
The association's Board and Producer Group have unanimously voted to bestow the Fellowship on North Lincolnshire producer John Godfrey CBE, who together with the late Sir Ben Gill, was responsible for bringing together the NFU pig committee and the commercial arm of the British Pig Association to form the National Pig Association in 1999.
"Pig producers had been calling for a single voice for the country's commercial pig sector for many years but it took two exceptionally talented men, both respected and trusted by farmers, to overcome the obstacles and make it happen," said North Yorkshire producer Richard Lister, chairman of NPA.
East Yorkshire producer Phil Stephenson, chairman of NPA Producer Group, said, "I am delighted we are recognising John Godfrey in this way. NPA has proved itself to be an exceptional trade association which consistently punches above its weight — and without John's wisdom and foresight, none of it would have happened."
Hugh Crabtree, chairman of NPA Allied Industry Group, said, "I was involved alongside John at the foundation of the NPA and his clear vision was to retain and develop the allied industry members of the BPA which I was chairing at the time. He knew it was vital to have an organisation that represented the whole sector. That's what makes us different and more relevant, and provides producers with specialist knowledge across many disciplines. Wise man that John Godfrey!"
Dr Zoe Davies, chief executive of NPA, said, "John Godfrey is a giant figure in the British pig industry and has been a great support to me personally over the years. Many of us rely on him for his knowledge of pig production economics and his wisdom in helping us plot a way forward in a cyclical and sometimes volatile sector that doesn't benefit from a subsidised safety net."
The National Pig Association is the representative trade association for British commercial pig producers. It is allied to the NFU and represents the pig interests of NFU members. John Godfrey was its first chairman and the family link remains today with his nephew Sam Godfrey being recently elected as vice-chairman of NPA Producer Group, which drives association policy-making.
John Godfrey, who was awarded the CBE in 1998 for services to the British pig industry, is a former chairman of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.
He was High Sheriff of Lincolnshire in 2010-11. He is a former president of Lincolnshire Agricultural Society and is its current treasurer. He is a former chairman of the board of governors of Lincoln University and was awarded a doctorate by the university in 2009. He is the founding chairman of Assured British Pigs, which is now part of Assured Food Standards.
John Godfrey is a director of R. J. and A. E. Godfrey, which has farming enterprises extending from Holbeach in the south of Lincolnshire, to Brigg in the north, and produces potatoes, peas, wheat, sugar beet and oilseed rape. He is also a director of Elsham Linc Ltd, which has its own feed mill near Elsham and is a large-scale pig producer.
Don't perpetuate this trade in fashion-accessory micro-pigs, urges NPA
Britain's leading professional pig specialists are urging the public not to support the current trend for keeping micro-pigs as fashion accessories—because they could unwittingly be perpetuating serious animal welfare problems.
Some miniature pig lines were originally developed for medical research and can carry genetic mutations responsible for deformities linked to animal dwarfism, such as deformed skulls and weak limbs, warns the National Pig Association.
Other lines of micro-pig have been developed by successively breeding from litter runts, which can lead to expensive vet bills caused by genetic weaknesses and susceptibilities, including walking difficulties and obesity.
Continued breeding of micro-pigs may compromise animal welfare and should not be encouraged, says NPA. Pigs generally do not make good house pets because they are programmed to root and chew, so they can be destructive if kept in a house or smart town garden.
NPA warns the pigs also pose a risk to the nation's commercial pig herd as micro-pigs can catch and spread diseases such as foot and mouth but in many cases may be harder to trace as some owners may not be aware of the legal requirement to register them.
A further risk for unsuspecting buyers is they may be sold what appears to be a micro-pig but is in fact just a small pig which in time will grow to 150-200 kilos.
Supermarkets shun cheap
Despite cheaper imported supplies being available, supermarkets have stepped up their support for British pork, according to the latest Porkwatch survey.
"This is a remarkable testament to the quality of the domestic product at a time when the gap between British farm-gate prices and the average European Union price is 26p a kilo, and the differential with Danish pork is over 35p a kilo," says National Pig Association chairman Richard Lister, who farms in North Yorkshire.
Retailers have increased the proportion of British bacon versus imported on their shelves from 44 percent to 46 percent, and they have maintained British sausages at 83 percent, British fresh pork at 83 percent, and British ham at 64 percent.
The only disappointing performer is ASDA which shows a fall in every category—down from 59 percent to 58 percent British fresh pork, from 19 percent to 18 percent on bacon, from 31 percent to 28 percent on ham and from 76 percent to 73 percent on sausages.
"We recognise some retailers have an extremely cost-conscious customer base," said NPA chief executive Dr. Zoe Davies. "Nevertheless there is plenty of evidence to show the best way to grow the pork category is to major on British, so we will be urging ASDA to review its sourcing policies."
Tesco has maintained its proportion of British pork versus imported at 66 percent and British sausages at 80 percent. It has increased its British bacon from 44 percent to 45 percent, but is down from 58 percent to 57 percent on British ham.
NPA's British fresh pork one-hundred-percenters are Budgens, the Co-operative, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsbury's, Waitrose and the hard discounter Aldi—and Lidl looks like joining the club soon, having increased its British fresh pork from 89 percent to 92 percent.
In recent months British pig farmers have applauded supermarkets for sticking to their 2013 Horsegate pledges to restore customer trust by sourcing more British pork and pork products.
They have continued supporting the domestic product despite the provocation of a glut of cheap pork in continental cold stores and falls in the value of the euro, which together have created a significant temporary price differential.
In its current Keep-It-Up! campaign, NPA points out that retailer sourcing policies highlight the taste, tenderness, welfare and whole-chain assurance qualities of British pork, all of which explain its premium position on supermarket shelves.
Restaurants can win
Wednesday April 14, 2015
A policy of sourcing more British meat and promoting the fact on-pack to customers means supermarkets are stealing a lead on restaurants and fast-food chains when it comes to gaining public trust, according to a new data.
Nearly 70 percent of shoppers trust the meat they buy in supermarkets either a lot or a fair amount. This compares with only 58 percent trusting the meat they are served in restaurants and 17 percent in fast-food outlets.
"If foodservice companies want the public to trust them to a similar degree, the answer is staring them in the face. They should copy the retailers and serve British meat instead of imported meat from continental cold stores," says National Pig Association chairman Richard Lister.
According to NPA, many foodservice outlets already have a British-only rule for the fresh pork they serve, but fail to inform customers. "That's crazy," said NPA chief executive Dr Zoe Davies. "All the evidence shows customers want British meat because they trust its provenance and its quality, and they are even prepared to pay a bit more for it, just as they do in supermarkets.
"So when restaurants and fast-food outlets make a point of sourcing British, they should always say so on their menus and in their advertising, and if they do, this new research shows their customers will respond positively."
• Since Horsegate in 2013, supermarkets have worked to restore trust by sourcing more British meat and labelling the fact clearly. The new YouGov research data on consumer trust, released this month by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, demonstrates the strategy is working.
• NPA has commended British pork hundred-percenters—Aldi, Budgens, the Co-op, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsbury's, and Waitrose (Porkwatch survey, January 2015)—and is urging foodservice companies to do likewise.
Shoppers praise supermarkets
Tuesday March 3, 2015
A new survey has found the majority of shoppers want supermarkets to sell pork from British farms, despite a glut of cheap foreign pork caused by turmoil in Ukraine.
Over 80 percent say supermarkets should continue to stock high levels of British meat to maintain consumer confidence following the 2013 Horsegate scandal, according to YouGov research released today by the National Pig Association.
Since August, when Russia imposed an embargo on European Union meat in retaliation for sanctions over Ukraine, there has been a glut of pork on the continent. But British shoppers are keen for supermarkets to stick to their post-Horsegate commitments to stop importing not-so-easily-traced foreign pork, and to major on pork from British pig farms, says NPA.
The YouGov research found:
"Consumers have always been loyal to British pig farmers, particularly after Horsegate, but even we have been surprised by this significant vote of confidence in the quality of our pork, bacon, sausages and ham," said NPA chairman Richard Longthorp, who farms in East Yorkshire.
"This research suggests supermarkets are delighting shoppers by sticking to their Horsegate promises to sell more British meat, despite the current provocation of a mountain of cheap meat piling up in continental cold stores."
NPA chief executive Dr Zoe Davies said, "The quality and taste of domestic pork and pork products is underpinned by the high welfare methods of British pig farms. Nearly half our pigs spend some of their lives outdoors, over 90 percent are covered by the independently-audited Red Tractor quality assurance scheme and almost a third are also inspected by RSPCA for its Freedom Food animal welfare label.
"This YouGov research shows shoppers are in no doubt that supermarket commitments following Horsegate to source more British meat have played an important role in restoring confidence in the meat on supermarket shelves."
NPA has particular praise for the British pork "hundred-percenters" as identified by the industry's most recent Porkwatch survey, namely Waitrose, M&S, Budgens, the Co-op, Sainsbury's, Morrisons, and hard discounter Aldi.
YOUGOV RESEARCH RESULTS
Brussels must match us in
February 26, 2015
The British pig industry has made huge strides in professionalism — but in some areas it is being sold short by Brussels, National Pig Association chairman Richard Longthorp told MEPs today (Thursday February 26).
He said British pig-keepers were proud of their professional standards and urged others in Europe to adopt and demonstrate similar standards in order to inspire consumer confidence in the safety and wholesomeness of European Union pork.
But in several ways the industry was shackled by a Brussels executive that did not always inspire confidence in producers or consumers, he claimed — citing insufficient checks and enforcement of the 2013 gestation stall ban, and an apparent reluctance to introduce country of origin labelling for processed meats, even lightly processed products such as bacon, ham and sausages.
“We live in an era where consumers have been faced with a host of real and potential issues and continue to seek more assurances regarding food safety, provenance and ethical and environmental criteria,” he told MEPs at a British bacon-and-eggs breakfast organised by the National Farmers Union in association with National Pig Association.
“The British pig industry believes Brussels has a responsibility to address any legitimate and evidence-based concerns, but not to kow-tow to the whims of every lobby group around,” he said.
“Being professional is not simply about doing a good job. It’s about doing a job with a high degree of competence that is clearly demonstrable, thereby inspiring confidence.” It was essential, he said, that all food producers inspired confidence in consumers, regulators and society at large.
He highlighted the steps towards professionalism taken by the British industry, including Real Welfare audits, certification of husbandry standards, recording on-farm use of antibiotics and independently-auditing more than 90 percent of pigs for regulatory compliance and good practice.
And in order for people in the industry to demonstrate their growing professionalism, the industry had now introduced a professional register, which recorded the continued professional development of farm staff, he told MEPs. “We in Britain are extremely proud of our professional standards and I would hope that others in the European Union would share our enthusiasm for professionalism.”
Given all these advances, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) afforded a big opportunity for Europe’s high-welfare pork, but it also posed a threat, he warned. “If internal European Union pork markets are opened up to pork produced to lesser standards and with a consequent lower cost of production there is absolutely no doubt what will happen. European Union pig production will be exported to countries with lower standards. We saw this happen in Britain 15 years ago when we introduced our unilateral stalls ban.”
NPA will tell MEPs why
February 23, 2015
British pig farmers will lay claim to being the most forward-looking in Europe when they join MEPs for a British breakfast in Brussels on Thursday (February 26).
They will cite the the industry’s skilling-up programme in readiness for the global food challenges of the future, along with ground-breaking animal welfare audits and an advanced tracing system for every pig.
‘Combine this can-do attitude with the fact that 90 percent of our pigs are covered by an independently-audited quality assurance scheme and almost a third are also inspected by RSPCA for its animal welfare label, and you can see we really do have something to shout about,’ National Pig Association chairman Richard Longthorp will tell MEPs at a British bacon-and-eggs breakfast organised by NFU in association with NPA.
‘We're unsubsidised, we’re close to our customers and we work closely with government and regulators to meet societal aspirations, so please help us take further giant strides, by championing our products and our methods,’ he will tell MEPs.
At the breakfast, NPA officials will pursue the sector’s new ‘Keep-It-Up’ messaging which reminds consumers why British pork earns a premium over commodity pork produced on the continent, and urges retailers to stick to their Horsegate promises to delight shoppers by sourcing more British pork.
Horsegate's legacy is more
January 14, 2015
Brent Crude isn't the only commodity that's falling in price. Pork has dropped 20p since summer, and it's still falling.
'You wouldn't expect us to welcome the steady decline in pig producer prices over the past few months — but we do applaud the fact that these price drops are helping retailers and foodservice to delight customers with lower prices for British pork and pork products,' says National Pig Association chairman Richard Longthorp.
National Pig Association is taking the opportunity, on the second anniversary of Horsegate, to commend retailers for remaining committed to British pork, particularly in the face of intense provocation from mainland Europe where Russia's meat embargo is causing serious market difficulties.
'Retailers are sticking to the promises they made after Horsegate to source more British pork because it is a quality, farm-assured product, with a short, transparent supply chain,' said Richard Longthorp.
In particular NPA praises the British pork 'hundred-percenters' as identified by the industry's Porkwatch survey, namely Waitrose, M&S, Budgens, the Co-op, Sainsbury's, Morrisons, and hard discounters Aldi and Lidl.
'Pork is not only the most versatile of meats, it remains outstanding value — which is particularly important whilst consumers remain price conscious in what, for many, are still challenging times,' says Mr Longthorp. 'With a 20p a kilo drop in pig prices since June, the value of British pork is now even greater, especially as customers are getting a locally-produced high-quality product.'
To return to the pre-Horsegate days of sourcing meat solely on price, and regardless of origin, would be the worst kind of short-termism, he said. 'The huge surge in the popularity of British pork we have seen since Horsegate has led to a period of recovery in the British pig industry, with investment in staff training and apprenticeships, new facilities, new technology and new accommodation — and everybody has benefited.'
Highly virulent Asian-American
Highly virulent Asian-American Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea virus has spread to Europe. The disease is extremely infectious — a thimbleful of manure from an infected pig unit is sufficient to infect the entire British pig population.
It is impossible to guarantee Asian-American PEDv will not arrive in Britain on a traveller's shoes or clothes, or on the wheels of a lorry, says the National Pig Association. Therefore all pig-keepers must consider themselves personally responsible for ensuring it does not get onto their own farm.
Producers should pay special attention to vehicle biosecurity. In particular no pig lorry should be allowed onto any pig farm unless it has previously been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, says NPA.
The highly-virulent strain of PEDv is not in the European Union yet but it is in the Ukraine, which borders the European Union countries of Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. It was discovered in mid-Ukraine by internationally-known British vet Dr John Carr, who has now had the strain sequenced in Britain to confirm his suspicion that it is the virulent Asian-American strain, and not the European strain.
Dr Carr cites a well-run commercial 5,000-sow unit in Ukraine where 30,000 piglets died over a matter of weeks, equivalent to the loss of six weaned pigs per sow per year. He warns that with such high mortality, it is essential to be concerned for the mental health of all stockpeople when a unit breaks down with Asian-American PEDv.
His worry now is that the highly-infectious disease could easily spread to the European Union. He stresses it is essential that no live pigs are imported into the United Kingdom from countries with PEDv and he warns that all pig producers should introduce impeccable transport biosecurity routines.
The European Food Safety Authority has confirmed the disease has no zoonotic capacity and is therefore harmless to humans. But in the United States it has wiped out over a tenth of the pig population in the past two years, causing up to 100 percent mortality in piglets on infected pig farms.
However the Canadian pig industry has demonstrated it is possible to control the spread of PEDv if the disease is identified quickly and no movements on or off the infected unit are allowed by the farmer concerned. Working on the Canadian model of early identification and total industry cooperation, the English Pig Health and Welfare Council has been formulating a contingency plan since April and this is due to be rolled out soon.
Meanwhile the statutory pig levy paid by English pig-keepers is funding free testing of diarrhoea samples at government animal health laboratories, to help ensure the disease is picked up promptly if it arrives on a British pig farm.
Survey shows British pig producers
December 2014, 2014
British pig farmers have made a quantum leap in their defences against foreign diseases this year, reports the National Pig Association.
Most have significantly stepped up biosecurity measures in a bid to keep out African Swine Fever which shows signs of becoming endemic in parts of the European Union, and highly virulent Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea virus in the States, Canada and much of Asia.
The results are taken from a survey by NPA of 66 pig units and show commercial pig producers have an increasingly professional approach to biosecurity.
"This supports the findings of our regular dialogue with members about biosecurity," said NPA chief executive Dr Zoe Davies. "Professional pig-keepers — and we think most smallholders too — are aware of the damaging impact of imported disease.
"In the States, PEDv has wiped out over a tenth of the pig population in the past two years, causing up to 100 percent mortality in piglets when it gets onto a pig unit, and if African Swine Fever arrived in Britain from the Baltics — for instance in imported pork products — it would instantly jeopardise our growing export trade in high-welfare British pork."
But despite the high level of biosecurity awareness now evident in the British pig industry, NPA remains concerned about those pig units on the fringe of commercial pig production which are not represented in the survey results.
"Our problem is that whilst NPA has good communications with commercial producers and the British Pig Association fulfils a similar role with pedigree breeders and smallholders, neither of us finds it easy to reach those people who keep pigs but aren't members of either organisation — and that's our challenge for 2015."
There is concern also about the proximity of people and other pigs, with over a third of units having a public footpath or bridleway within 100 yards, and 18 percent being within half a mile of another pig unit.
NPA appoints senior adviser
September 24, 2014
Georgina Crayford, who is majoring on salmonella surveillance and control in her University of Liverpool PhD, is to join NPA next month as a senior adviser.
"Having closely followed the excellent work of NPA over the years I jumped at the chance of joining the team," she said. "I am really looking forward to taking on this role, which I anticipate will be as rewarding as it is challenging."
Currently welfare projects coordinator at Bpex, she will join the existing NPA team of chief executive Dr Zoe Davies, regions manager Lizzie Press and assistant adviser Katy Allen.
"I applied for the job with NPA because I wanted the opportunity to apply my knowledge of science and agriculture in a practical setting to drive positive change and achieve tangible results for pig producers," she said.
She has a first-class honours degree in bioveterinary science and when at University of Liverpool won the Pfizer Bioveterinary Science Prize for best academic record.
Her degree, and her PhD — which is near completion — have equipped her with a multi-disciplinary knowledge of food-producing animals, their production systems and the role of science in improving livestock production.
She has given a number of oral and poster presentations at conferences, including technical events in the States, Edinburgh and the Netherlands.
NPA confidential reporting
September 15, 2014
To help maintain high standards of animal welfare on British pig farms, the National Pig Association is introducing a Confidential Reporting Service. The service will also protect pig-keepers from bogus claims by vegan activists who periodically attempt to gain unauthorised entry to pig buildings.
It places an obligation on everyone employed on, or visiting, a participating pig unit to immediately report any disquiet they may have about any aspect of animal welfare, either directly to a senior member of staff, or using a confidential hotline.
The service is operated independently by a specialist provider and is free to farm assured pig-keepers. It will be funded from the statutory pig levy, which is administered by Bpex, a division of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.
"The British pig industry is globally renowned for its high animal welfare standards and this new service will help us demonstrate to consumers that our reputation is well-deserved," said NPA chief executive Dr Zoe Davies.
"Many of our members will want to sign up for the service because they, more than anyone, want to know if any aspect of their husbandry is falling below acceptable standards.
"Importantly it will help us deal quickly and responsibly with the claims of animal rights activists who from time to time trespass on livestock farms. In future, if they see anything wrong they will be under a moral and contractual obligation to report it immediately, so that appropriate measures can be taken."
The service guarantees caller confidentiality, and can provide translation services for Eastern European workers on British pig farms. It will also filter out vexatious calls (if any).
A poster will be prominently displayed on all participating pig units, giving the hotline number and advising all employees and visitors:
"Whether you are an employee or a visitor, by entering this site you accept that everything you see is confidential, except that if you observe any aspect of animal welfare that causes you concern you must report it immediately to the unit owner or a senior member of staff or to the confidential reporting service Safecall (where there is no need to give your name)."
In the event of being notified of any concerns about a pig unit, NPA will work with Bpex to determine a proportionate response, which may include asking Assured Food Standards to carry out a spot check using an independent auditor.
Confidential reporting services are an accepted part of the landscape of commercial, construction, and industrial sectors these days. It is likely such services will increasingly be used in primary food production, as a way of ensuring high standards.
NPA appoints chief executive
May 20, 2014
Having urged its members to pay greater attention to succession planning, National Pig Association is putting its own house in order, by promoting general manager Dr Zoe Davies to the post of chief executive.
NPA chairman Richard Longthorp, an East Yorkshire pig producer and arable farmer, said that since Zoe Davies had joined NPA from Defra six years years ago, the NPA board had been increasingly impressed by her contribution to the betterment of the British pig industry, operating at a national and international level with a deft confidence based on her profound knowledge of pig production and pig industry politics.
In addition to being well deserved, the new appointment would take some pressure of future NPA chairmen, he said. "In the past, the elected chairman of NPA has tended also to take on the chief executive role, but this made it almost a full-time job, and that's not sustainable in today's highly competitive environment when pig producers need to devote the lion's share of their energies to their own business."
Dr. Davies said, "You'd be hard pressed to find a more dedicated and passionate team to support British pig producers than the National Pig Association, and I am honoured to be given the opportunity to guide it through future challenges and to take advantage of the opportunities. Our focus is, and always will be, to provide excellent value for our members."
Dr. Zoe Davies was a senior scientific officer at Defra before joining NPA. Before that she was farm and trials manager at BQP, Britain's biggest pig producer. For her PhD, she studied welfare in outdoor sow systems at Cambac JMA Research. A 2012 Nuffield Scholar, her subject was "Movers and shakers in global pig production" — an investigation into ways that small lobbying organisations, such as the National Pig Association, can maximise their effectiveness.
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.