By Peter Crichton
MILITANT pig farmers yesterday (Thursday) protested at a cutting plant which is part of the Malton empire, responsible for handling over 30% of the UK pig kill.
The objective was to draw attention to the risks posed to the overall health of the mainland herd by importing live pigs from Ireland.
During 1998, MAFF statistics indicate that 85,000 Irish pigs entered the country, compared with just 5000 in 1997.
The farmers involved chose Malton as their target because they claim that over 80% of all Irish imports are killed at plants owned by the company.
Their concerns are that, as Ireland is not an Aujeskeys disease-free zone and, although Ministry vets claim all imported pigs are Aujeskeys-free, the risk of cross-infection by this killer disease is still high.
Many UK pig producers blame Malton for the initial collapse in confidence and the tearing-up of agreements that followed the 28 May 1998 announcement that the compnay was abandoning all AESA-based contracts.
They feel that not only has the Malton decision to handle huge numbers of imported Irish pigs undermined the home market, but this has also been at the expense of the high health status of the UK herd.
The protesting farmers also believe that the Irish pigs have been a weapon Malton has used to balance the shortage in numbers of live pigs now available on the home market, and to try and keep producer prices artificially low.
Malton Bacon declined to comment on farmers accusations.