MLC pigmeat ads xenophobic

10 May 2000

MLC pigmeat ads ‘xenophobic’

By Donald MacPhail

A HARD-HITTING campaign which implies that British farmers produce the safest and most welfare-friendly pigmeat has been branded xenophobic.

The 4.6 million campaign was launched by junior agriculture minister Joyce Quin at the Pig and Poultry Fair at Stoneleigh on Wednesday (10 May).

British pig farmers, who have called for advertising to reflect that UK pigs are not reared under the stall-and-tether regime, will be delighted by the campaign.

But representatives of pig producers in Holland and Denmark have condemned the advertising, claiming that it will damage the whole sector.

The promotion, which will be run by the Meat and Livestock Commission, is being funded by the Ministry of Agriculture and the British Pig Executive.

Advertisements, which will appear in newspapers on Thursday (11 May), claim that pigs abroad are often reared in cramped quarters and fed on animal parts.

The adverts urge shoppers to choose pigmeat with the British Meat Quality Standard Mark to ensure they are supporting welfare-friendly systems.

Advertising copy next to a picture of a confined pig says: “Look after farmers who look after their pigs. Only buy pork with this mark.”

The Dutch Meat Board (DMB) described the advertising as inflammatory, inaccurate and irresponsible, claiming it would drive down all pigmeat sales.

Robert Smith, DMB managing director, said: “This is a kick in the teeth to all manufacturers and major retailers alike.”

He added: “The public needs to be confident that it is safe to eat pork, ham and bacon. These new ads undermine that confidence and will hit sales.”

Dutch pork and bacon is produced to the highest standards, as specifically demanded by each of the major UK retailers in turn, Mr Smith added.

Legislation in Holland has banned stalls and tethers, and pigmeat which is not fed on meat and bonemeal is being delivered to the UK, he said.

The Danish Bacon and Meat Council (DBMC) said it, too, was incensed by the implication that pigmeat without the quality mark was inferior.

Danish pigs reared under a special contract agreed with UK supermarkets in 1997 conformed to UK production standards, said a DBMC statement.

Danish farmers bore additional welfare and environmental costs which were not demanded of British counterparts, the statement added.

These include a ban on antibiotic growth promoters, tighter controls veterinary medicines, and a salmonella control programme.

John Howard, DBMC marketing director, warned that the MLC advertising campaign could backfire and encourage people to eat less pigmeat overall.

“Some British farmers will be delighted by the direction of this campaign but, if the overall market is damaged, it will be a decidedly Pyrrhic victory,” he said.

Mr Howard said the campaign could also jeopardise an invitation from Danish pig farmers to agree common standards with British producers.

“It will be difficult to maintain a dialogue under such circumstances,” he said.

The DBMC has launched its own 1m on-pack promotion for Danish bacon, which offers a months round-the-world holiday as its first prize.

It is backed by press adverts of a map of the world made out of bacon, and radio advertisements which ask “How would you like to be posh for a month?”

See more