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Can we do better than slatted floors and farrowing crates?

by 5m Editor
11 June 2004, at 12:00am

UK - It was only eighteen months ago that new European welfare rules for pigs were introduced… but that isn't the end of it. In the next few years Brussels will be putting together more welfare reform packages and this time slatted floors, and perhaps farrowing crates, will be top of the hit list.

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THE VOICE OF THE UK PIG INDUSTRY

NPA is active on members' behalf in Brussels & Whitehall, and with processors, supermarkets & caterers – fighting for the growth and pros-perity of the UK pig industry.

So pig producers have only a short time in which to explain the positive aspects of slats and farrowing crates to politicians and the public at large. We can start by considering whether the terminology we use accurately conveys what we are talking about.

For example, as pig carcases became leaner in response to consumer preference, the term "fat pig" was phased out in favour of the more accurate "finished pig". And when we remember, we say "pork" instead of "pigmeat". We tend to talk about nursery, grower and finisher housing, which is more informative than the bald term "flatdeck".

The question taxing NPA's Allied Industry Committee is whether the British pig industry can think of a friendlier description for slats, without sacrificing accuracy. And if we can come up with a new term, will we be able to persuade continental producers to adopt it?

The Canadian and US pig industries favour "clean-flow system" as an alternative to "slats", according to AIG committee member Steve Thomas. But Ian Campbell prefers "self-cleaning floor" which he feels more precisely reflects the role of slats.

I wondered how this would work in practice, so took the liberty of changing all reference to "slats" in a recent MIK flooring advertisement to "self-cleaning flooring". It works fine (see illustration). "Partial self-cleaning flooring" would also work well.

At its meeting yesterday, the NPA Allied Industry Committee decided to put its thoughts before the next NPA Producer Group meeting, in July, with a recommendation that the term "self-cleaning flooring" be adopted instead of "slats" or "slatted flooring".

The committee would also appreciate feedback from producers and suppliers. Will the new term, if adopted, find general approval in the industry… or can you think of something better? (If so, please email.)

A more difficult nomenclatural problem is to devise a suitable alternative for "farrowing crate". The word "crate" has a negative connotation (think veal crate) which hardly does justice to the life-saving role of the equipment in question.

"Farrowing cradle" was tried a few years back, but didn't catch on and various other options "freedom" and liberty" haven't quite fitted the bill as generic terms (although they serve well as terms for specific types of crate.)

Ian Campbell's suggestion of "farrowing nest" deservedly provoked derision from members of the AIG committee and my own suggestion of "protection frame" wasn't much better received. So can you come up with something better?

When thinking through ideas, remember the basic rule that whatever description is ultimately adopted it should be informative and accurate. It may reflect the welfare role of the farrowing crate, but it shouldn't be so hard-selling that it will be unacceptable to those who view the use of crates as fundamentally wrong.

We laugh off attempts by the politically correct to persuade us to refer to sweat as "nondiscretionary fragrance," crooks as "socially misaligned" and worst as "least best". We wouldn't want to be party to such linguistic absurdity ourselves. So whatever term we choose must prove satisfactory to all fair-minded people, including not only Defra, and ultimately the European Commission - but also organisations such as Compassion in World Farming, which believes farrowing crates can cause suffering and frustration.

Source: National Pig Association - Digby Scott - 11th June 2004

5m Editor