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NPA addresses inaccuracies in Times editorial

4th May 2021 / By Alistair Driver

NPA chairman Rob Mutimer has written a letter to the Times to correct some glaring inaccuracies in a recent editorial. 

The Times editorial was published in response to an article highlighting undercover footage showing of a worker on a Scottish pig farm using a hammer to euthanise pigs. 

The article went on to claim Britain is falling behind the EU on animal welfare, including the use of farrowing crates, which the article said 'hold pregant sows for the whole 16 weeks of their pregnancy' - clearly confusing farrowing crates, with sows stalls, which were in fact bannined in the UK in 1999. The EU did not ban sow stalls for another 14 years.

The article, which can be viewed below, also makes claims about the use of farrowing crates in other EU member states and claims Red Tractor and QMS are not doing their jobs properly. 

Mr Mutimer, while stressing that the NPA will never defend poor practice and puts pig welfare as its number one priority, addresses these inaccuracies in the letter. 

Times article

NPA letter

The Times view on animal welfare failings: Cruel Country

Date: 30 April 2021


As a British pig farmer I am proud of the high standards of animal welfare we achieve in this country, contrary to your article “The Times view on animal welfare failings: Cruel Country”, our standards are some of the highest in the world.

In the piece you appear to have confused sow stalls, which were banned in 1999 in the UK, with farrowing crates, which protect the welfare of baby piglets and are used for a maximum of five weeks during the birthing period. Currently there is no alternative option which protects new-born piglets as well, although we are looking for better ways. Already 40% of our sows give birth completely freely in outdoor systems. We’d call that high animal welfare.

You mention that Germany has banned farrowing crates which is also not correct. Germany has set in process legislation to end the use of farrowing crates by 2035, but will still permit the use of temporary crating which will allow the sows to be contained during the critical period during birth and up to five days afterwards. We would advocate such a system and indeed many of our indoor farmers are trialling it as a way to allow the sow more freedom but still offer piglets the best protection.

In terms of our standards, the Code of Practice for the Welfare of Pigs, a Government statutory document, was reviewed extensively in England and our devolved nations in 2020, and Red Tractor standards, which account for about 95% of pigs, are under a substantial review and will be published later this year – hardly what we’d call ‘slipping’.

We never defend poor practice; pig welfare is our top priority and always will be. Printing inaccuracies is not acceptable, if you ever want to know about how we produce British pork then you only have to ask, we’re very happy to provide the facts and have nothing to hide.

Rob Mutimer

National Pig Association Chair