National Farmers Union Scotland has met EU Commission animal welfare staff asking that lessons be learned from the challenges that surrounded recent laying hen legislation ahead of the deadline for implementation of similar welfare-driven rules on sow stalls at the end of 2012.
When the deadline on meeting EU specifications on laying hen cages came into force on December 31, 2011, a significant proportion of European egg units — accounting for 14 percent of EU egg production — was in breach of the rules, despite having 12 years to prepare. By comparison, in Scotland, only one farm, accounting for less than 0.2 percent of the laying flock, has yet to meet the deadline.
NFU Scotland and the National Pig Association have been seeking reassurances from the Commission on improved compliance and stricter enforcement when the sow stall ban is introduced across Europe at the end of 2012. “Compliance in the UK with the forthcoming sow stall legislation is not an issue as a ban on the use of sow stalls was unilaterally introduced in here January 1999," said NFU Scotland’s Pigs Working Group Chairman Philip Sleigh. "However, it is in the interests of every single UK pig producer that Europe works harder on bringing the ban into place across the whole of Europe as intended and that the mistakes made in introducing the laying cage ban, where compliant producers risk being disadvantaged, are not repeated."
According to the Commission, cross-border movement of pigs between Member States for processing will make tracing illegally produced pig meat difficult. NFU Scotland said it would like to see a commitment to ensuring that systems are introduced to make sure identifications can be made. “Scottish and UK producers deserve no less," said Sleigh. "Since sow stalls were banned here in 1999, pig producers have endured significant competitive disadvantages with many retailers and food manufacturers choosing to import pork produced to lower welfare standards. It is a sad fact that since the sow stall ban came into force, the Scottish pig industry has contracted by 50 percent.
“Meanwhile, pig meat consumption has actually gone up, but instead of our farmers producing it, our supermarket shelves have a wide selection of EU pork and bacon, produced in systems that are illegal here. [NFU Scotland] is adamant that introduction of new rules across Europe must be rigorously enforced to deliver our producers a level playing field with their European competitors by the end of the year."
According to Sleigh, recent events around laying cages for hens have emphasized the need for Europe to work harder at encouraging conversion out of sow stalls and to put in place legislative measures to avoid compliant Scottish producers being disadvantaged once the ban on sow stalls comes into force.