Majority of member states still flouting sow stall ban
THE majority of EU member states are still not fully compliant with the partial sow stalls ban nearly a month after it came into force, according to new figures released this week.
The figures released at the latest EU Council of Ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday showed 17 out of the 27 EU member states had not complied with the new welfare regulation that came into force on January 1.
The National pig Association estimates that overall 25% of the EU ‘s 13 million sows are still being kept for most of their productive lives in outlawed stalls.
Of the significant pig-producing countries, Germany (73 per cent compliant), France (72 per cent) and Ireland (82 per cent) are reported to be least compliant.
Denmark and the Netherlands, the two biggest exporters to the UK are not fully compliant, although they both reported compliance figures in excess of 90 per cent. Least compliant of all was Portugal at just 58 per cent.
With sows stalls have been banned in the UK since 1999, the latest figures have sparked fresh concern that UK producers risk being undermined by cheaper ‘illegal’ pigmeat being marketed across the EU.
The National Pig Association (NPA) is calling on the European Commission to do more to bring countries flaunting the ban into line.
The Commission acknowledged that some delegations ‘noted the importance for all member states to implement these animal welfare requirements in order to avoid unfair competition’ between compliant and non-compliant countries.
It confirmed its intention to launch infringement proceedings against non-complying member states.
Health commissioner Tonio Borg said countries that have failed to comply must provide regular updates to show their progress towards compliance. He urged Farm ministers to apply ‘dissuasive’ sanctions to non-compliant farms.
Defra Secretary Owen Paterson said it was ‘inexcusable’ that only 10 member states were fully compliant, given that they have had 12 years to bring in the sow stalls ban.
“I want far better levels of compliance quickly. If people care about the welfare of the animal their pork and bacon comes from they should buy British,” he said.
“Our farmers did away with these cruel contraptions 14 years ago at a considerable cost to their businesses. It makes it hard to compete on price with countries that continue to flout the law. British farmers should be rewarded for their high welfare standards, not penalised.”
The NPA said the Commission was not going far enough as it refuses to impose a trading ban on imports of pork and pork products from ‘illegal farms’.
NPA general manager Zoe Davies said the Commission’s health and consumer department, DG Sanco, made it clear in Brussels that it is unhappy about NPA’s continued references to ‘illegal farms’ and ‘illegal pigs’.
She retorted that the NPA believes the Commission remains ‘complacent’ about the level non-compliance, and will continue to use these terms. She said the NPA and the UK Government were united in the belief that ‘non-compliance is distorting and undermines European Union credibility’.
In the first step in its infringement procedure, the Commission will send out warnings to non-compliant at the end of next month.
But the enforcement process will take more than a year, if the experience of countries that have failed to enforce the ban on battery cages for hens, introduced January 2012, is anything to go by. They will not be referred to the European Court of Justice until the Commission implements it’s next infringement package in February.