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European pig producers join forces to combat damaging legislation

by 5m Editor
5 September 2003, at 12:00am

UK - In recent years the European pig industry has been a soft target for the welfare and environmental ambitions of Brussels and Strasbourg… but this could be about to change.

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Thanks to a pan-state initiative by the Danes, the pig sector will be presenting a united front to national governments and the European Commission over new animal transport proposals which threaten to damage the European pig industry, without delivering welfare advantages.

This new spirit of cooperation among producers is likely to become a template for responding to other difficult legislation in the pipeline, for instance the proposed Environmental Liability Directive. It could also help pig producers ensure Integrated Pollution Prevention Control is applied over a level playing field.

And it could help individual countries combat gold-plating by their own governments, a problem suffered particularly by Germany and Dutch producers at present.

"The industry needs a pan-European version of NPA's Producer Group," says Stewart Houston, executive director of NPA, who attended a meeting in Copenhagen this week, called by the Danes to discuss Brussels' plans for updating the pig welfare in transit rules.

Producer representatives at the meeting found considerable common ground and will now tackle their respective governments from a position of greater strength.

But the fact that the Danes called the meeting, rather than the producer body Congress of European Agriculture (Copa) was a sign of a weakness at Copa.

"This was a Danish initiative… but it should have been a Copa initiative," said Stewart Houston. "We need to make the pig part of Copa work much better than it is doing.

"Using NPA Producer Group as a model, there should have been a small Copa working group on pig transit which would have come back with proposals that everyone could buy into. This would have allowed us to present a single, strong case to the Commission."

Countries represented at this week's meeting on transit included Denmark, Britain, France (also representing Belgium), Sweden, Holland and Finland. Ireland and Italy sent their apologies.

Pigs will die during transport, warn European pig producers

European Commission proposals to increase minimum space allowances for transported pigs will have a damaging impact on welfare - causing pigs to be thrown about during journeys, and to fight more.

Rather than rely on the Brussels dictum that more space necessarily means improved welfare, the Danes filmed what really happens when stocking density in an animal transport lorry is increased from 0.35 square metres per 100kg to 0.42 square metres.

The results show that if Europe goes ahead and increases space allowances there will be more fighting, the pigs will be thrown about, and there will be increased skin damage.

A video of the Danish experiment was shown at a meeting of producer states this week, called by Danske Slagterier. It will be made available to Defra and the European Commission.

As the Commission's proposed new rules on transporting of pigs are intended to improve welfare in transport, the evidence produced by the Danes should prompt a rethink, as it suggests welfare is compromised rather than enhanced.

At the Danske Slagterier meeting in Copenhagen this week, the pig-producing countries represented (Denmark, Britain, France, Belgium, Sweden, Holland and Finland) stressed that transport mortality levels are currently "extremely low".

The group predicted an increase in mortality if Europe pressed ahead with plans to increase minimum space allowances and called for more research into the issue.

Source: National Pig Association - 5th September 2003

5m Editor