26 March 1999

Imported pigmeat from UK-born sows?

MUCH of the cheap imported pigmeat said to be threatening the livelihoods of British farmers may actually come from British-born sows, says animal welfare campaign group Compassion in World Farming.

Thousands of live British pigs are being exported to the Continent and may be used to produce pigmeat, under systems illegal in the UK, which is then exported back to Britain, CIWF maintains.

But the British Pig Industry Support Group insisted that CIWFs bid to "persuade British pig farmers to be the welfare conscience of the world" was "breathtakingly wrong-headed".

"They are criticising British breeders for exporting breeding pigs that might end up in stalls. Either they do not know the full facts or they are deliberately only telling half the story," said BPISG spokesman Digby Scott.

It was not just live pigs that Britain provided, but a whole husbandry package alongside. "We export the animals and we export British stockmanship and British welfare," he said. "Exporting breeding stock is a legitimate trade. And breeding stock has to go across live. If you remove this British welfare influence in the world then all you do is increase animal suffering abroad."

Mr Scott called on CIWF to join pig farmers in their protests against cheap pigmeat imports. "The only way to get sows out of stalls in Europe is for every shopper in Britain to buy British bacon, ham and pork."

Last year 180,000 breeding sows were exported from Britain to the Continent to be reared in sow stalls, according to CIWF.

Peter Stevenson, CIWF political and legal director, said it was scandalous that some British farmers exported sows to be kept in conditions that were illegal at home.

"It is hypocritical for UK pig farmers to complain about Continental sow stalls while at the same time exporting their sows for rearing in such farms," he said. &#42