August 22, 2013


EU ban on swill-feeding for pigs unlikely to be lifted soon


For the EU ban on swill-feeding to be lifted, Brussels would have to come up with a system that was safe across 28 countries and which maintained consumer confidence, said Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Martin Callanan, a member of the European Parliament's public health and food safety committee.


He said at a BBC programme Newsnight, "The original outbreak of foot-and-mouth was caused by contaminated swill, probably imported from another part of Europe. It only requires one factory to go wrong somewhere and it destroys the whole industry and causes billions in lost tourist income, and the awful images of burning piles of carcases all over the country. We must make sure this doesn't happen again. Foot-and-mouth disease is endemic on European soil, in Turkey, in North Africa, with an outbreak only two years ago in Bulgaria."


"Pig Idea" campaigner Tristram Stuart told Newsnight that the reintroduction of swill feeding would make pig farming more commercially viable. "At the moment thousands of pig farmers are going out of business because they can't afford to feed, because there's a pressure on global supplies and we are actually competing with people who are hungry on the other side of the planet for food they want to eat. Pig farmers would save a lot of money, as they do in Japan, America, China, South Korea - all countries that actually encourage it."


He said nobody would oblige any farmer to feed their pigs food waste if they didn't think there was a business case for doing it.


MEP Martin Callanan told the programme there was some appetite among some MEPs for a return to feeding swill. There had been a resolution in the European Parliament two years ago calling for the existing ban on catering waste to be looked at.


"Consumer confidence is absolutely key to this. We have to take consumers with us. We have to show them that their food is safe and well produced. And even if we are convinced that any swill industry would be properly regulated and properly looked after in the UK, there are another 27 countries in the EU as well, which are part of the same single market. Would we have the same confidence that these industries would be properly regulated in those countries as well?"


Derbyshire producer John Rigby said the legacy of foot-and-mouth was record-keeping and traceability. "The industry has fast turned its back on dodgy practices and I can see swill-feeding breaking all of those traceability promises that the supermarkets want to put in front of the consumer."


Tristram Stuart said, "We're talking about a really well-regulated system where food waste is collected and is properly treated and screened on a conveyor belt before going off to pig farmers. The pig farmers then turn it into pork and that pork is then sold on the very shop shelves from which the food waste originally came, and nothing moves more than 20 to 30 kilometres. It is sold as a premium eco-pork product precisely because they are able to say that they produce pork without negative impact on the environment."


Essex pig farmer Tracy Mackness told Newsnight she would not feed her pigs swill because it would not be well received by her customers. "Once they know you're actually feeding your animals on pig swill that has probably been on someone's plate... I don't think it is what the public want. A lot of my customers, who I sell my produce to at farmers' markets, they come there because they know where the animals are reared and what you actually feed them on, and that is one of the selling factors."