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"We were quoted out of context" claims European Environmental Agency

by 5m Editor
15 December 2003, at 12:00am

EU - The European Environment Agency is distancing itself from an article that appeared on the internet this week and which claimed the intensity of pork production in Denmark is not environmentally sustainable.

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The agency claims - following an approach from the Danish Bacon and Meat Council - that director Jacqueline McGlade was quoted out of context.

The article in question said pig production in Denmark had become "so massive and so concentrated" it threatened the country's environment and ecological system.

It quoted Jacqueline McGlade, director of the European Environmental Agency, as saying Denmark would soon have to seriously consider whether its ecological system "can cope with the high level of pig production that it has today."

McGlade's "out-of-context" observations were reported to have been made at a presentation of the Agency's strategy for the next five years.

Around 25 million pigs a year are slaughtered in Denmark. This represents circa 10 percent of total pork processing in the EU. Denmark is 43,000 square kilometres, about 60 per cent the size of Ireland. It has a population of 5.3 million people.

John Howard of Danish Bacon and Meat Council, the UK subsidiary company of Danske Slagterier, has written to this website about Jacqueline McGlade's reported comments.

He says he was surprised to read the comments attributed to the European Environment Agency and contacted the agency, which sent the following reply.

  • "These quotes were taken out of context from remarks about water pollution from agriculture, in which Jacqueline McGlade cited pig farming as one example of intensive agriculture. She never used the words 'so massive and so concentrated' in describing Danish pig farming.

    "What she actually said was all in the conditional: if pork production were to continue to intensify, it would (at some unspecified point) become unsustainable in terms of the environment and pollution. She added that if that were to be the case, Denmark would need to consider whether the ecological system could cope.

    "It is important to be aware that the comments were made in response to a question from a journalist after a press conference we held to announce our strategy for the next five years.

    "It was not our intention to talk about pig farming in Denmark or anywhere else at the press conference and the issue only came up because the journalist asked about it. I hope this clarifies the situation."

John Howard says in his email to NPA that it is certainly true there has been a major public debate in Denmark about the environmental impact of modern pig farming systems and the industry certainly has had its critics in an environmentally aware society, typical of most Scandinavian countries.

"The reality is that for several years there have been many restrictions placed on Danish pig producers, which have curtailed their ability to achieve the scale seen in many other pig producing countries.

"These controls have included a link between the number of animals kept and the ownership or formal access to land for slurry disposal. In other areas, environmental legislation in Denmark is significantly beyond the levels prescribed by recent and incoming EU Directives. We would be happy to provide more details to any of your readers who may be interested."

There is a degree of unhappiness in Britain at present, at the continued levels of production in Denmark.

Pig prices across Europe have generally been below cost of production for the best part of two years. "I wonder if any pig producer anywhere in Europe has sold a pig this week at more than it cost him to produce," said NPA chairman Stewart Houston today.

Athough not wishing to score points at the expense of the Danes - "whom we work with well on many issues" - he is concerned that they should not embrace "a last man standing in Europe policy".

Source: National Pig Association - 13th December 2003

5m Editor