12 August 1998
Pig men picket Immingham over imports
By Johann Tasker in Immingham
AS many as 2000 pig farmers picketed the port of Immingham this afternoon (Wednesday) in protest at imports of pigmeat which, they claim, are ruining their livelihoods.
Farmers from as far away as Scotland and Norfolk handed out roast pork sandwiches to passing lorry-drivers.
The farmers claim consumers are being hoodwinked into thinking that unlabelled imported pork sold in UK supermarkets is produced to the same standards as domestic pigmeat. They claim that, in some cases, shoppers are lead to believe imported pork is produced in Britain.
UK pig producers have to abide by strict production rules, which make their pork more expensive than imported supplies.
The feeding of pigs on meat and bonemeal, banned in the UK in the wake of the BSE crisis, is still allowed on the Continent. This saves mainland European producers about £2.90 per pig.
Sow stalls, in which pigs are kept in cramped conditions on tethers, will be banned in the UK from January. But a Europe-wide stall-and-tether ban wont come into effect until 2004.
Many of the farmers at todays demonstration are losing £35 on each pig they sell. Prices collapsed in June amid claims that UK retailers were importing too much cheap foreign pigmeat.
“Its the pig industry thats dying, not just the pig farmers,” said Stewart Houston, a pig farmer from Ripon, Yorkshire, who remortgaged his house to pay for the cost of converting his stall-and-tether pig unit to more welfare-friendly sheds, where his pigs live on straw.
Mike Hook, who keeps 4000 sows in Lincolnshire, said many farmers faced the choice of either going bankrupt or begging their banks to lend them money. “There is absolutely no light at the end of the tunnel, which is why farmers are doing this,” said Mr Hook. “Were desperate.”
Jim Wyllie of the Meat and Livestock Commission, addressed the farmers, saying, “Retailers should label all pigmeat products more clearly.
“Supermarkets could change labelling overnight – they do it quick enough when it comes to prices.”
Andy Peddie of the Scottish NFU left home at 5am to get reach Immingham on time. “Foreign imports dont meet our already high standards,” he said.
The farmers said that, if retailers didnt change their ways soon, supermarkets would be the next targets for picket lines. A banner on one of the tractors at the rally read: “UK pig producers have in excess of 30,000 slurry tankers.”