Seven months after the European Union introduced a ban on keeping sows in stalls (except for the first four weeks of pregnancy) half of European Union countries have failed to get tough on pig farms where sows are illegally confined for most of their lives.

Therefore, retailers and food manufacturers must continue to be vigilant, warns Britain's National Pig Association. It argues that British consumers expect all imported pork and pork products to be traceable back to farms that comply with the EU's January 2013 ban on the full-time use of sow stalls.

According to new data from the European Commission only 13 member countries are fully compliant: Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Malta, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Sow stalls have been banned outright in the United Kingdom since 1999.

The commission started infringement proceedings against nine countries in February -- Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Poland and Portugal. The Netherlands, Italy, Hungary, Finland and Slovenia are still being investigated.

The National Pig Association has used its Wall of Fame campaign to persuade retailers and food companies to pledge they will not import pork and pork products from non-compliant pig farms on the continent. The association is currently carrying out a number of spot-checks to ensure companies that made the Wall of Fame pledge are sticking to their word. 

One hundred companies and brands have pledged total traceability for the imported pork and pork products they sell, including most major retailers and leading foodservice companies such as McDonald's, Costa and Premier Inn.

"Sow stalls are narrow cages. They make life easier for pig farmers, but they are medieval in the eyes of British consumers because the sows spend most of their lives being able to do little more than stand up and lie down," said Dr. Zoe Davies, National Pig Association general manager. "The response to our campaign for traceable higher-welfare pork for British consumers has been outstanding -- far better than we ever envisaged."

The National Pig Association says it is confident that the pledges on its Wall of Fame at have helped reduce the flow of pork from illegally-operated farms. At the beginning of the year, the association estimated as many as 40,000 pigs an hour were being delivered to continental processing plants from illegally-operated pig farms. As Britain imports around 60 percent of its processed pork, it was feared that many British consumers were unwittingly supporting the trade in illegally-farmed pigs.