By Peter Crichton

HARD-PRESSED British pig farmers have resorted to direct action against processors who continue to import Irish pigs.

To try and stem the flow of Irish pigs, members of the British Pig Industry Support Group (BPISG) advised their members that one way in which attention could be drawn to these extra supplies was to propose a “pig strike” at a target abattoir.

The first on the hitlist was EE Pilgrim & Son of Banham, Norfolk.

But rather than try to restrict supplies of slaughter pigs, which have to be sold on a weekly basis, the BPISG proposed that their members held back cull sows, which this outlet also handled.

These were then either sold to another outlet or stockpiled.

Pilgrims quickly pushed out a press statement to indicate that they had recently made a policy decision not to handle any further supplies of live Irish pigs.

The BPISG is likely to take further action against any other abattoirs who continue to be involved in a trade that can only damage the home market.

They believe that the campaign against Pilgrims is a warning shot at any others who may be tempted to source live Irish pigs.

UK producers have also been outraged to discover that a leading pig marketing group has also been involved in this trade and, until challenged, was silent on this issue.

Some form of boycott against this and any other group involved may also take place.

The concern over Irish imports started when recent MAFF figures showed that a total of 85,000 Irish pigs arrived in Britain in last year, compared with only 5000 in 1997.

Part of this sharp rise was due to the Ballymoney fire which put a major Northern Ireland abattoir out of action.

However, hard pressed UK producers believe that another factor has been the price differential across the Irish sea which has sucked in the extra imports and added to an already oversupplied domestic market.

Although the imported pigs have all the appropriate MAFF disease checks producers are concerned that as Northern Ireland is not Aujeskeys disease free there are added risks if further supplies are allowed into the country.