17 August 2000
Pig farmers fear welfare catastrophe
by Alistair Driver
PIG farmers have called for immediate action to avert a major animal welfare crisis because of restrictions imposed to control swine fever.
Since the outbreak was confirmed on five farms in East Anglia, hundreds of farms in restriction zones have been unable to move pigs and other livestock.
Unaffected farmers in restricted areas are facing extreme financial hardship, yet the Ministry of Agriculture has made it clear they will not be compensated.
Only farmers who have had swine fever outbreaks will be compensated. But a backlog of disease-free pigs is building up on other farms under restriction.
The National Pig Association wants the government to lift the restrictions as soon as it emerges that the swine fever outbreak has been contained.
Ian Campbell, National Pig Association regional manager, said: “Farms are rapidly running out of room to house, feed and water pigs.”
Movement controls on two surveillance zones could be lifted this weekend. But producers are unlikely to find a market for their pigs, said Mr Campbell.
Pigs due for slaughter and boars are going overweight, which is affecting their value,” said Mr Campbell. Abattoirs would be reluctant to take pigs, he added.
European Union laws require that meat from the pigs must be heat-treated before being processed. But heat-treatment facilities are few and far between.
Mr Campbell said time is running out for the industry. It wants the government and Brussels to reconsider whether heat treatment is necessary.
Abattoirs have also been affected by vastly reduced supplies and intense scrutiny from MAFF vets, which has caused a number of temporary closures.
Two abattoirs in the area have been operating on a stop-start basis since the swine fever outbreak when pigs for slaughter were thought to have the disease.
HG Blakes, near Norwich, and EE Pilgrim & Son, of Banham, were both closed on Tuesday (15 August) following suspect cases of swine fever.
Ray Pilgrim, of Pilgrims, said the pig that forced the closure of his abattoir probably had PDNS, a disease that has been rife in East Anglia over the past year.
The disease is causing widespread chaos among farmers and industry workers because its symptoms are very similar to those of swine fever, said Mr Pilgrim.
“We are already down to 40% throughput because of movement restrictions on farmers in the region and this just adds to the disruption.”
Both plants were eventually given the all-clear. Blakes was back in production by Tuesday afternoon, while Pilgrims was operating on Wednesday.