MEPs Support Future Ban on Intensive Production

EU - Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are backing a campaign to end 'factory pig farming'.
calendar icon 11 February 2011
clock icon 6 minute read

US-style industrial pig farming is having a devastating effect on Europe's traditional family-run farms and should be banned, a parliament conference has heard.

The Parliament reports that the call to end the factory farming of pigs followed the screening of a highly critical and often disturbing film, 'Pig Business', in the European parliament earlier this week.

The screening, to a packed audience of MEPs and farming activists, highlighted what campaigning journalist and director, Tracy Worcester, described as "the true cost of cheap meat from factory farms".

The film focuses on the biggest pig producing and processing company in the world, Smithfield foods. Ms Worcester accused the US-based multinational of using its wealth to silence criticism of their production methods.

The film follows Smithfield's aggressive drive to develop industrial scale pig farming in Poland, where the agrifood giant is accused of squeezing out local, small-scale farmers and monopolising the production, slaughtering and distribution of pig products.

Ms Worcester also documents the concerns of people living in close proximity to the factory farms, many of whom say they fear that the methods used to dispose of massive amounts of pig slurry are affecting their health.

The film includes a number of interviews with Robert Kennedy junior, a nephew of Jack Kennedy and environmental lawyer. A fierce critic of factory farming, Mr Kennedy warns that industrial pig farming "destroys both the economy and democracy by concentrating power and money into the hands of a few giant corporations".

Ms Worcester told the audience that she had agreed to screen her film in the parliament "to show MEPs that the cheap food that they are delivering for constituents isn't cheap at all".

"If factory scale farming was made to pay the true costs of its production systems, then small family-run farms would actually be more competitive in the market place."

Following the screening, she spoke about her 'six big asks' campaign to end intensive pig farming, which is based on several recommendations that she developed from speaking to farming groups across the EU.

They include recognition of the fact that the profitability of factory farming is linked to externalising its true costs to the wider community, ensuring the upcoming reform of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) moves away from industrial livestock production, the introduction of a ban on the routine use of antibiotics and better enforcement of EU animal welfare rules.

"We need to stop subsidising factory farming and give our food economy back to more healthy, sustainable, bio-diverse and humane scale farming."

Animal welfare

Anti-globalisation campaigner, farming leader and French Greens/EFA group deputy José Bové warned that industrial agriculture was destroying the "backbone" of European food production and putting animal welfare and human health "second to the cult of profit," according to The Parliament.

Mr Bové who co-hosted the event with MEPs Janusz Wojciechowski and Dan Jørgensen, said: "This film paints a very good picture of the industrialisation of agriculture. Pig farming is a prime example of what's happening to farming across Europe.

"The growth and development of these industrial pig farms have had dire consequences, destroying the livelihoods of people who have traditionally raised pigs.

"The fact that we have let these big industrial groups get so far clearly illustrates that the EU has been incapable of properly regulating Europe's pig market.

"These companies get to the stage where they dominate the production system and often control the whole supply chain."

"Whether in the United States, Brazil or Poland, US transnational companies like Tyson foods, Cargill meat or Smithfield exert through their concentration and gigantism, terrible economic and social dumping, emptying regions of good quality production that could provide revenue for many farmers."

In a written statement, Mr Wojciechowski said: "In my opinion, large-scale farming should be banned in the EU, with a simultaneous ban on the imports of meat products from such farms outside of the EU.

"It should be forbidden to create new large farms and the existing ones should be gradually eliminated."

Farming 'in crisis'

Breton farmers' activist RenéLouail, a pig farmer for over 30 years, told the audience that when he first started farming in 1974, "there were as many pig farmers in my region as there are in the whole of France today" and laid the blame for the current crisis in farming at the feet of the EU, reports The Parliament.

"Today, we have to start a real debate on pig farming. This is the right time and the right place to start this discussion. There are some fundamental questions that we need to raise," he said.

Mr Louail warned that Europe's traditional and family-run farms were failing to benefit from the ideology of food concentration policies and called for a clear debate on developing a healthy food system within the ongoing discussions on reforming the CAP.

"The ball is now in the court of EU policymakers. It's high time we had a debate on delivering a healthy food system."

"We also need to ask the European commission to look at the situation of products imported from outside the EU. It's time that the politicians exercised their responsibilities for once."

British socialist MEP, Linda McAvan, said she was shocked to find out that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development had helped to part-fund Smithfield's expansion into Poland.

She said that the European parliament had, over the years, instinctively defended Europe's farming community but suggested that perhaps many policymakers didn't realise that they were actually supporting factory farming and export subsidies for big industrial producers.

"We have to look hard at what kind of farmers we are defending," she said.

Ms McAvan argued that the timing of this week's event was particularly relevant as MEPs geared up for a second reading vote on the EU's controversial food labelling regulations.

She called for the parliament to "get a campaign going" to ensure that mandatory country of origin labelling (COOL) for meat products is included in the new laws.

Country of origin labelling is already mandatory for beef products but not for other meat products such as pork. MEPs want a new meat labelling regime that would indicate where the animal was born, reared and slaughtered, according to The Parliament.

"I hope the European commission will work had on the issue before it comes back to the parliament, and I hope that MEPs don't just follow their party affiliations when it comes to the second reading vote," said Ms McAvan.

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