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Cross-compliance gold-plating

by 5m Editor
31 July 2007, at 12:31pm

UK - Pig-keepers are concerned that regulators are making up rules on the hoof. The latest cross-compliance newsletter attempts to gold-plate cross-compliance rules on tail-docking, lighting and manipulable materials.

It also claims pigs are ‘frequently’ over-stocked in Britain. If this were true – which patently it isn’t – it would imply that assurance scheme auditors are routinely turning a blind eye to breaches of pig welfare law.

NPA is concerned that Defra may be attempting, via its cross-compliance agent Momenta, to impose unilateral welfare standards by the back door. It will be raising its worries with Defra.

The cross-compliance newsletter says producers require a light meter to check their lighting meets the legal requirement for pigs (minimum 40 lux for at least eight hours a day). It claims there is little evidence that tail-docking reduces tail-biting. And it states, categorically, that hanging chains and footballs are not suitable as environmental enrichment.

NPA will point out to Defra that pig-keepers are well aware of their obligation not to tail-dock routinely. However, guidance in Defra’s own Pig Welfare Code accepts that in some circumstances tail-docking is necessary. NPA will stress that tail-docking is carried out as a welfare measure on farms only where tail-biting is a problem and where other attempts to prevent it have failed.

On the subject of environmental enrichment it will point out the cross-compliance newsletter is gilding Defra’s own guidance, as negotiated with the pig industry and as it appears in the Pig Welfare Code. The code does not ban the use of footballs and chains but recommends they are used in conjunction with other materials – such as straw or sawdust - or are changed every week. (This advice has been omitted from the Cross Compliance Handbook for England Supplement 2007, which says, ‘You must give all pigs permanent access to a sufficient quantity of material such as straw, hay, wood, sawdust, mushroom compost, peat or a mixture of such which does not affect their health in a negative way.’)

Pig-keepers accept the advice in the cross-compliance newsletter may be given with the best intentions but it says the advice is not only patronising but in some cases is inaccurate.

NPA will point out to Defra that the United Kingdom’s unilateral ban on sow stalls almost bankrupted the national pig industry and as a result all producers remain extremely sensitive to attempts by the government and its agents to introduce new unilateral measures. It will remind Defra of the pledge made by successive ministers who, having seen the damage caused by the stalls ban, said they would never again impose standards unilaterally on the industry.

5m Editor