‘Hypocritical’ weaner imports threaten UK pigs

Importing weaner pigs from the continent is putting the health status of the UK herd in jeopardy, the National Pig Association has warned.

The association feared that a price difference of £20 an animal between the UK and EU was driving farmers on the continent to look at all avenues to make profit, including importing potentially diseased animals into the UK.

Anyone importing commercial animals from the continent would be hypocritical, said NPA general manager, Barney Kay.

“It’s not just about the potential health risk because of the prevalence of diseases such as PRRS and MRSA in the EU,” he said.

“But we have criticised supermarkets selling imported meat products, which could have come from lower welfare systems, yet those importing would be doing the same. “Also, where would they sell to? About 92% of pigs slaughtered in the UK are farm assured and important pigs likely wouldn’t comply with farm assurance.”

Currently the NPA is not aware of any shipments of weaners in to the UK, but it would be a crazy move for what is likely to be a short term profit, added Mr Kay.

American strains of PRRS virus have been responsible for the deaths of millions of pigs worldwide in the past five years, with exotic strains of MRSA also becoming a common infection among pigs, causing health issues to both pigs and farmers, according to the Pig Vet Society.

Once these pathogens arrive in the UK they could be extremely difficult to remove, added Mr Kay. “With all the work we are doing to improve the health status in our herds, the last thing we want to do is undo it.”