Pig crisis prompts European pig producers to lobby Fischler

UK - National Pig Association is joining with continental producer organisations to call for urgent action over the precarious state of the pig industry.
calendar icon 9 December 2003
clock icon 5 minute read
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NPA is active on members' behalf in Brussels & White-hall, and with pro-cessors, supermarkets & caterers – fighting for the growth and pros-perity of the UK pig industry.

NPA chairman Stewart Houston has responded, "The organic pigmeat sector is a very small and hugely expensive part of the pig industry and the Soil Association continues to justify its existence by publishing questionable and selective reports which knock mainstream production.

"British supermarkets demand the highest standards for their customers and we continue to meet that demand with pork products which are wholesome, assured through independent audit farm to plate and at a reasonable price.

"This quality is demonstrated by the BQSM rosette which appears on packs of British pork, bacon ham and sausages.

"We continue to strive to be better and last week, with the support of the Minister Ben Bradshaw, we launched a world beating Health and Welfare Strategy which will further improve the lot of the animals under our care."

Why organic husbandry isn't so virtuous after all

(Bearing in mind the current offensive by the Soil Association against conventional animal husbandry, the following article may be of interest. It is taken from a paper by Waldemar Ingdahl, chief executive of Swedish Eudoxa, a think tank organisation that analyses emerging technologies and seeks to bridge the gap between scientists and humanists.)

It's Christmas time in Europe, and that means of course it's time for animal rights activists to start complaining about agricultural practices: chickens that don't have enough ranging room, pigs that don't have soft enough beds, etc.

For some the good life is the so-called "natural" one. This can become difficult to obtain since many domestic animals don't exist in a wild state any longer and are specifically bred for their productive attributes, which makes them very hard to transfer to any type of agriculture other than an industrialized one.

Another interpretation of the good animal life is about physiological balance. The easiest way to measure the welfare of the animals is the mortality degree of the livestock, because other measures are more difficult to implement rationally.

For example, organic egg production systems have a significantly higher mortality rate for chickens than the cage system. In the organic systems diseases are more easily spread through feathers and excrement (i.e. salmonella, which is endemic to poultry) and chicken cannibalism is more difficult to prevent.

The risk of injuries increases when beak trimming is banned, and the hens can hurt each other more easily in their pecking-order fights.

The use of extensive preventive medication is extremely important for poultry (including antibiotics), but it isn't allowed in organic farming, which leads to coccidiose, a parasitic intestinal infection. The hens may live a more natural life, but succumb in greater numbers to a painful disease.

Still others suggest that a good life for the animals is to avoid pain and other suffering. The important point is if the animals themselves, subjectively, can be said to have a good situation. This isn't always that clear-cut, and requires extensive human interpretation.

Free ranging sows rummage the earth, and that quickly peels away the grass layer from the soil. Without the grass layer the pig faeces go directly down in the ground, over-fertilizing it. Many sows get their snouts pierced with a ring, which is painful in itself, but also brings the pig pain when it tries to rummage. The pig's natural behavior is thus stopped through pain, with an unnatural intervention, in order to protect the environment. Free ranging pigs are mainly present in organic agriculture -- go figure.

The list of these kinds of problems is extensive. It is important to remember that many of the animal liberation ideologues back in the 1970s had quite strict ideals of a decentralized, small scale and self-sufficient society in mind when discussing the situation of domestic animals. They did not have the ambition to provide an agriculture to meet the demands of today's modern society, and they certainly didn't envision possible conflicts between animal protection and protection of the environment.

Animal welfare, in its context of sustainable agriculture, has been given an unquestioningly positive profile that cannot be criticized without stepping outside a very broad consensus. But unity has a price since there is a debate regarding what constitutes good animal husbandry.

Often a small-scale idyllic agriculture is presented as the best alternative if we care about the animals. This is ultimately not feasible, not from an economic viewpoint for millions of Europeans, nor if we truly care about animals. But neither is the Common Agricultural Policy-supported hybrid of today, with one leg in both a romanticized past and another in a heavily subsidized industry. The agriculture of Europe -- and thus its concept of animal husbandry -- truly stands at a crossroad.

Source: National Pig Association - 10th December 2003
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