A failure to fully enforce European pig welfare rules by the 2013 deadline will damage the image of the industry, said National Pig Association Director Stewart Houston at a Copa communications seminar in Brussels, Belgium, on June 25. The UK, he said, enforced a ban on sow stalls in 1999, and the rest of Europe should follow suit by Jan. 1, 2013, or risk tarnishing the reputation of the entire sector.

"In the UK we have battled poor profitability, high feed costs and difficult planning restrictions which have forced many producers out of the industry," said Houston. "It is very important that the reputation of the sector is intact for those that want to continue producing pork."

Latest European Commission figures show three member states are already compliant with the ban on sow stalls, including the UK. Fifteen say they will be compliant by 2013, while five more say they will be at least 90 percent compliant by 2013. Another two will be 70 percent to 90 percent compliant, with two more yet to give figures. "I am very concerned that the EU's excellent work on welfare could be damaged by a handful of countries that fail to enforce these welfare regulations," said Houston. "I cannot over-emphasize the need for European decision makers, member state governments, processors, retailers and producers to work together towards compliance as quickly as possible.

"Further to that, we must ensure any reduction in production as a result of new welfare rules is not filled by imports from countries outside of the EU that produce pork to standards that would be illegal in Europe. By the same token the European market must not be distorted by pork products from non-compliant farms within Europe."