July 17, 2020
UK pig association addresses 'inaccurate' claims about pig production in Telegraph article
The UK's National Pig Association (NPA) took exception to what it said were inaccurate references to pig production in the UK contained in an article published in The Telegraph.
The article, titled "A Pig's Life – Conventional versus organic" and published on July 13, claimed that "half of British sows are kept in cages so small they can't turn around or do natural tasks like building a nest for their young or foraging for food".
It also claimed that 93% of pigs are kept "entirely indoors" and can "attack and eat each other" if not managed properly, and that some pigs are "routinely given antibiotics when not unwell to encourage them to put on weight".
In a letter sent to the British broadsheet on Wednesday, July 15, the NPA's policy services officer, Lizzie Wilson, said she was "extremely disappointed to read your inaccurate references to pig production in the UK".
Regarding allegations that "half of British sows are kept in cages so small they can't turn around", Wilson said that the farrowing crates referred to was to "prevent the sow from rolling on and crushing her piglets (due to the sow being about 150 times the size of the piglets)".
"For the remaining time, sows on all UK farms roam freely in groups either indoors or outdoors," she said.
The article also claimed that 93% of growing pigs are kept entirely indoors in the UK and that if not properly managed, pigs attack and eat each other.
Wilson said that in fact 95% of British pigs are reared on farms that are members of the Red Tractor assurance scheme and around 25% are also reared according to the RSPCA Assured scheme, which focuses primarily on welfare standards.
Wilson denied the claim that "some pigs are routinely given antibiotics even when not unwell, to encourage them to put on weight faster", saying that antibiotic growth promoters have been banned in the EU since 2006. "Furthermore the routine use of antibiotics even when pigs are not unwell is voluntarily prohibited by the industry".
She added that the pig industry has more than halved its antibiotic use within the last two years. "This demonstrates the continued hard work and commitment of pig farmers, aided by veterinarians and other farm advisers, to use antibiotics more responsibly".