Defra to slash budget for smuggled meat checks at Dover

Dover Port Health Authority is urging Defra to reconsider plans for a 70% funding cut to its work in seizing illegal meat imports, a move the authority says could jeopardise efforts to keep African swine fever (ASF) out of the country.

The port authority team, working with UK Border Force, has so far seized almost 60t of illegal meat since new rules were introduced in September 2022 limiting personal imports of pork and pork products to just 2kg a person.

See also: Illegal meat seized at Dover in ‘unprecedented volumes’

Last weekend alone, more than 1t of smuggled meat was seized at Dover, highlighting the scale and importance of this work, undertaken specifically to keep ASF out of the country.

As well as facing steep budget cuts, the port authority is being asked to extend its work to Coquelles, where the Channel Tunnel starts in France, which has been identified as a key risk point for the illegal meat trade.

“They want us to do twice the work in two different locations with a reduced budget,” Lucy Manzano, head of port health and public protection at Dover District Council, told Farmers Weekly’s sister magazine Pig World.


It is understood that the work looking for illegal imports was being funded out of a budget initially allocated to the much-delayed Border Target Operating Model, intended to control commercial imports.

But when that starts operating from the end of this month, with full customs checks starting in late April, budgets will be squeezed.

“We don’t have enough resources now to provide the number of people needed on the ground to cover a 24-hour period, so there are gaps and that’s why we have called for greater resources,” Ms Manzano said.


National Pig Association chief executive Lizzie Wilson said cutting the budget for the ASF work at Dover could be “catastrophic” for the pig sector, which would be left exposed to a potentially devastating outbreak of the disease.

“Dover Port Health Authority, along with Border Force, have been doing fantastic and incredibly difficult work since the introduction of the ASF measures in September 2022, exposing the huge scale of the illegal activity taking place,” she said.

“This makes it absolutely imperative that, rather than slashing funding, more resources are made available for this absolutely critical work.”

Defra response

Defra refused to respond directly to a query about the proposed Dover funding cuts. But it stressed that the ASF safeguard checks will continue to be conducted with Border Force at the point of entry, Dover Port.

A spokesman added: “We remain committed to delivering the best border in the world. The Border Target Operating Model is key to delivering this, protecting the UK’s biosecurity, and ensuring our trading partners have confidence in our exports.”

However, Ms Manzano said Dover District Council was also angry at the proposal to move the Border Control Post, which is where physical checks will be made on commercial imports, from Dover to Sevington, near Ashford, 22 miles away.

This would also present unacceptable biosecurity risks and could threaten driver compliance.

Meat: Our Expectations

Red more about our campaign to crack down on illegal meat.

See more