Government plans to slaughter pigs

24 August 2000

Government plans to slaughter pigs

by Alistair Driver

THE government has unveiled plans to slaughter and dispose of up to 100,000 pigs that are stranded on farms because of swine fever restrictions.

The proposal, which is subject to approval from Brussels and the Treasury, was made by agriculture minister Nick Brown at a meeting with industry leaders.

However, it remains unclear whether farmers will be compensated for financial losses resulting from the imposition of swine fever restrictions.

Mr Brown said the government was willing to pay abattoirs to slaughter and dispose of pigs at the top end of the age bracket that are stranded on farms.

These pigs would have no market value even if the restrictions had been lifted because of a European Union requirement that the meat must be heat treated.

Mr Brown held a four-hour meeting with leaders from the National Pig Association, National Farmers Union and Meat and Livestock Commission.

Earlier in the week, the Pig Veterinary Society had called for the slaughter of up to 80,000 pigs to alleviate what it said would be an animal welfare catastrophe.

Mr Brown had a moral responsibility to act, said the society, which is affiliated to the British Veterinary Association.

A Ministry of Agriculture spokeswoman said after the meeting that Mr Brown would look at ways of relaxing movement restrictions on pig units.

This would enable some relief on farms, such as nursery units, where younger pigs have built up in large numbers, the spokeswoman said.

But Mr Brown was unable come up with a compensation package to help farmers with the cost of keeping pigs estimated at 5 per animal per week.

The spokeswoman said Mr Brown would be discussing the issue of compensation with the treasury and the European Union.

The minister has said that he wants British farmers to receive the same treatment as farmers in other European countries hit by swine fever in the past.

But it remains unclear whether he is willing to fight for compensation for farms with healthy pigs in restriction zones as well as those with the disease.

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