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An update on tagging

by 5m Editor
2 July 2003, at 12:00am

UK - It's been an uphill struggle but there is now a fighting chance producers will not after all have to tag all non-slaughter pigs moving off their holding of birth.

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Having reached an impasse with Defra vets, NPA had a meeting with animal health and welfare minister Eliot Morley, shortly before he was moved to Environment in the recent Cabinet reshuffle, and made a strong case for movements in pyramids to be exempt from tagging.

The upshot is that the industry has now been charged with demonstrating to Defra vets that pyramid movements provide robust traceability and that tagging is not therefore necessary.

'The minister hasn't promised that if we provide satisfactory evidence he will exempt pyramids from tagging, but I am reasonably confident that we will be able to win a compromise that will exempt the vast majority of people moving pigs within registered pyramids,' said NPA regional manager Ian Campbell.

But it is probable non-slaughter pig movements outside pyramids will have to be tagged when the Primo rules are updated this autumn.

NPA initially opposed this because the existing Primo rules have worked well in the past, but it has had to accept Defra's position. Pigs moving in casual pyramids may also have to be tagged.

The problem facing Defra is that ten-year-old EU rules insist on tagging for all non-slaughter movements, so a strong case is needed if Britain is to win a derogation for pyramid movements.

Unwilling to expose themselves, Defra vets have up to now refused to support an exemption for pyramid movements, but Eliot Morley appears to have been receptive to NPA's arguments. It is anticipated his successor, Ben Bradshaw, will be similarly open-minded about the issue.

In Britain around 80 per cent of non-slaughter movements involve outdoor pigs. Tagging therefore poses considerable management, welfare and safety difficulties.

NPA is convinced Britain's pyramid system provides sufficient traceability to satisfy the European Commission and that tagging is not necessary.

This high level of traceability was demonstrated recently when a large operator had a (false) swine fever alert. In less than 30 minutes all movements connected with the scare had been halted.

'We would expect that for any pyramid to be exempted from tagging, the operator will have to show that he has a foolproof way of tracking his pigs by computer or card system, and that contingency plans are in place for any emergencies that do arise,' said Ian Campbell.

If a producer knows that by having a good contingency plan he won't have to tag pigs, then that will be a very big incentive.

Source: National Pig Association - 2nd July 2003

5m Editor