31 July 1998

Retailers are betraying us all – pig vets spell out warning

By Jonathan Riley

THE Pig Veterinary Society has launched a swingeing attack on major retailers, accusing them of operating buying policies that betray pig producers and deceive consumers.

Speaking to FARMERS WEEKLY, PVS vice-president Mark White said the society felt it had a duty to support British pig producers and speak out.

"We cannot stand by and watch the major retailers parasitise the industry when it is in the depths of its worst price slump ever."

He accused the retailers of ignoring welfare, traceability and food safety standards in a quest for cheaper imported pigmeat and fatter profits.

In a widely released statement, the society said that increasing quantities of cheap pigmeat were being bought from Europe and then labelled and sold as "packaged in Britain", without conforming to the conditions imposed on British producers.

Imports could be derived from pigs treated with medicines that were banned in the UK, and fed diets containing meat and bonemeal – a practice banned in this country but still widely used in other member states, the statement said.

The vets added that, in many cases, retailers had advanced Britains unilateral legal ban on stall and tether housing from Jan 1, 1999, and were already refusing to accept British products from these systems. Yet there were no plans to abolish stalls in the rest of Europe.

Society president Gareth Williams said that imported pigmeat was produced without the rigorous quality assurance standards and auditing that had been imposed by the same retailers on UK pig farmers.

"Through extreme pressure, retailers have imposed conditions affecting food safety and the well-being of the animals on the farm, which have forced British pig farmers into more expensive production systems," he said.

"Retailers should not then drop all principles, buy in cheap, imported products and try to deceive the public by clever labelling," Mr Williams added.

Imported pigmeat is produced to less rigorous standards, says Gareth Williams.