December 11, 2003
Scotland's Scotpigs Company Refute Claims of Not Meeting Animal Welfare Standards
Arthur Simmers, managing director of Scotland's Aberdeenshire-based Scotpigs yesterday denied claims that the company had not met animal welfare standards under Quality Meat Scotland's farm assurance scheme. The company was expelled last week from operation.
Speaking publicly on the issue for the first time, he said: "I totally refute that we have breached animal welfare legislation. I know as a businessman that unless pigs are properly looked after, they will not leave a profit."
Scotpigs runs 9,000 breeding sows at nine major locations, ranging from Aberdeenshire to West Lothian, as well as operating on smaller sites. In 1998 the Simmers empire hit financial difficulties, which extended to about £10 million of liabilities. The enterprise was refinanced while the breeding herd was reduced from 12,500 sows. Simmers said Scotpigs also was badly affected by the foot-and-mouth crisis of 2001.
Asked about the TV shots, filmed clandestinely by Advocates for Animals and screened by BBC Scotland, Simmers said: "That was not fair reporting. Given the number of sows we have, there are always going to be deaths."
He added that the wasting disease of pigs - PMWS - for which there is little treatment, had also affected his business badly. Losses in young pigs can be as high as 20%. Simmers yesterday affirmed his commitment to animal welfare by inviting this correspondent to his Ormiston unit in West Lothian, which was disqualified from the QMS farm assurance scheme in November. "There is nothing to hide," he said.
Simmers added: "The company identified that it needed to restructure its pig enterprises from large scale weaner production to a much reduced herd.
"Audited accounts have been outstanding for three years. I have been willing to sign but other parties have not. Further costs to the company obviously arise from penalties and in the interim the good name of the company is further damaged."