New figures expose shortfall in EU sow stall ban compliance
ONLY a handful of member states look set to comply with new pig animal welfare regulations which will come into force across the EU on January 1, shocking new figures reveal.
Member states have had since 2001 to comply with the partial ban on sow stalls. But the latest figures on member states’ readiness for the ban reveal just five member states are already fully compliant, including the UK which banned sow stalls in 1999. A further six reported compliance in excess of 90 per cent.
But many of the rest, including most of the UK’s biggest competitors, remain woefully short, including France at 33 per cent, Germany at 48 per cent and the Netherlands at 63 per cent. Even Denmark, the biggest exporter of pigmeat to the UK had only managed 85 per cent compliance.
Even allowing for a ‘last minute rush’ to remove sows from stalls and house them in new group pens, the National Pig Association (NPA) estimates that nearly two million pigs a week from farms operating illegally will be delivered to Europe’s processing plants. That equates to around 40,000 ‘illegal’ pigs an hour entering the European food chain in January.
Stewart Houston, chairman of the British Pig Executive, said he was ‘flabbergasted’ when the figures were circulated at a European Commission meeting earlier this month.
“We were amazed because we had been working with the commission all year on this and the messages we were getting was that compliance was much higher,” he said.
Mr Houston said, unlike with the 2012 battery cage ban, there were no measures in place to stop the trade in illegally produced low cost pigmeat.
“We have been saying for a long time Europe would be awash with product from illegal farms. It now looks like it’s going to be twice as bad as we thought. It is going to be a nightmare for UK and EU retailers and food service companies to be certain they aren’t selling product from illegal farms,” he said.
NPA chairman Richard Longthorp said: “This makes a mockery of Europe’s animal welfare legislation,” Mr Longthorp said. ‘As the United Kingdom imports around 60 percent of its pork — much of it as processed food such as ham and bacon — shoppers will need to be very careful about what they choose from supermarket shelves and when eating out in restaurants.”
He revealed the NPA will be asking retailers, processors, food service companies, pork product manufacturers and restaurant chains to sign a ‘pork pledge confirming that they will only source pork from legal systems ’in the New Year.
Those who sign will be displayed on a ‘wall of fame’, while those who ‘cannot or will not commit’ could be exposed on a ‘wall of shame’, he said.
The British Retail Consortium’s head of media, Richard Dodd, said the majority of pig meat sourced by UK retailers came from UK farms.
He said UK retailers have been ‘working with suppliers for a long time’ on ensuring pig meat products ‘in whatever form’ meets their requirements. He said he was ‘confident’ all pigmeat on supermarket shelves would be sourced from legal systems next year.
Supermarkets have also been in discussions with Defra to establish which member states were making the best efforts to comply and have been lobbying the European Commission to ensure strict enforcement of the new requirements.
Compassion in World Farming chief executive Philip Lymbery said there was ‘no excuse’ for those member states that have not complied, given the lengthy amount of time they have had to prepare.
“Many UK retailers have already pledged not to sell pork products from non-compliant countries, once the ban comes into force. I would encourage all retailers and processors to follow suit to demonstrate to non-compliant member states that this disregard of the law and of sows’ welfare, will not be tolerated,” he said.
Who is complying, who’s nearly there…and who’s not?
Figures on the current state of implementation of the partial sow stall ban were distributed at a meeting of the European Commission’s Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) on December 4. They showed:
100 per cent compliant: Austria, Estonia, Luxembourg, Sweden, UK.
90 per cent +: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia.
70- 90 per cent: Denmark (85 per cent), Finland (73) Greece (83), Latvia (82), Malta (75), Poland (80) Slovenia (72), Spain (70).
Less than 70 per cent: Cyprus (48), Belgium (45), France (33),Germany (48), Ireland (57), Italy (69), Netherlands (63), Portugal (63).