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NPA issues formal complaint over Amazon swill feeding ad

16th Apr 2019 / By Alistair Driver

Amazon ad

The NPA has submitted a formal complaint about an Amazon advert showing a pet pig being fed kitchen scraps.

The advert for the Amazon Echo Dot, which is being shown in cinemas and can be viewed here, features a small boy with a pet pig. During the advert, the boy scrapes uneaten food from his plate for the pig to eat.

In a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority, NPA chief executive Zoe Davies pointed out that this is classed as swill feeding, which has been illegal in the UK since 2001. The ban was imposed after pigs fed infected waste food caused the ‘devastating’ 2001 foot-and-mouth disease outbreak, which resulted in the death of millions of farm animals and cost the UK economy £12 billion. Swill feeding became illegal throughout the EU in 2002.

The UK is currently on high alert for African swine fever, which, like FMD, can be spread via infected meat.

“What really concerns us, is not just the fact that the ad appears to encourage an illegal act, but the fact that we have another disease spreading through the EU, all over China and several other Asian countries called African swine fever (ASF),” Zoe wrote.

She stressed that ASF survives for a long time in meat and has been spreading from country to country as people inadvertently take meat from affected countries and allow pigs to gain access to it.

“We do not have the disease in the UK and we are working really hard with other industry groups and the government to try and keep it out by attempting to educate the public about the illegality and the risk of feeding kitchen scraps to pigs,” Zoe added.

“This advert undermines all those efforts and because of the advertising budget, will be seen by a much wider audience. We also have a large smallholder and pet pig community in the UK and we know from studies that feeding kitchen scraps, despite being illegal is still practised, so the risk is already present.”

She called for the ASA to help the industry in preventing this advert from being shown and ‘keeping ASF and other awful notifiable diseases out of the UK pig population’.

Illegal practice

Vet Duncan Berkshire, president of the Pig Veterinary Society (PVS), has also complained to the ASA as an individual and to Amazon on behalf of the PVS.

He has asked the online retail giant to remove footage of this illegal practice from all forms of media immediately.

“There are huge efforts coming from the pig sector and Government to make people, especially unsuspecting members of the public with small holdings and pet pigs, aware of the risks that this practice puts the UK pig population at, along with making them aware that they are breaking the law,” he wrote.

“A company as big and influential as Amazon has a huge responsibility to make sure that its customers are informed correctly and you have made a big mistake here, portraying something that is illegal in an advert that will be aimed to be watched by potentially millions of people.”

Lack of awareness 

waste food

While the message about the dangers of feeding pigs kitchen scraps, as portrayed in the above poster, is widely understood within the commercial pig sector, there is less awareness or acceptance among smallholders and pet pig owners.

In a recent article in Country Life magazine, Tom Parker-Bowles suggested that kitchen scraps should not be fed ‘if you want to sell your pigs commercially’. The phrase was picked up on Twitter by Irish pig farmer and pig health expert Shane McAuliffe, who pointed out that it is ‘illegal to feed ALL pigs (even one pet pig) kitchen scraps, not only ones used for commercial pork’.

NPA will be writing to the magazine editor to remind them of the legal requirements surrounding swill feeding.

  • You can read more about why swill feeding is banned here
  • Click here our special ASF section here with the latest news on the global spread of the disease and advice for keeping it out of UK pigs