Speaking at the 2011 David Black Award at the House of Lords yesterday (November 2), Paice said lessons would be learned from the introduction of the EU ban on using battery cages for chickens on January 1 2012. Egg producers have voiced similar fears about unfair competition.
“We know that, while the whole of the British egg industry will comply, a number of other Member States [MS] will not,” said Paice. “We are fighting very hard to get the [European] Commission to take robust action. We have been warning for a year that this was the likely outcome and it is just wrong that people who have made that investment should face unfair competition.
“Exactly the same criteria will apply to the pig industry. So, when sow stalls become illegal at the end of next year [apart from in the first few weeks of pregnancy] we are determined to make sure they are [treated as such]. And, to be fair the Commission has this time recognised the issue.”
Paice said: “We know already that a number [of MS] have no intention of fully complying.” He added, “It is important that they do not undermine the pig meat market,” for producers that do comply.
Pig producer organisation BPEX is campaigning for recognition among retailers and consumers that the UK has been completely stall-free since 1999. That makes the products of UK producers more expensive than those of overseas producers who use stalls.
BPEX argues that, unless supermarkets demand that all pork is sourced from suppliers that adopt Red Tractor scheme welfare standards or that at least comply with the new EU rules, Britain’s pig industry will continue to be competitively disadvantaged by continental producers that do not comply with either and undercut them on price.
While the new law brings the EU closer to the position in the UK, even after January 1 2013 stalls will still be allowed in the EU for a period of four weeks – 25% of sow pregnancy. BPEX research has shown varying degrees of expected compliance with the sow stall legislation, with southern and eastern Europe not being ready.
Although pressure is mounting for a derogation for these producers, BPEX argues that this must be resisted since they have had 15 years to prepare for the legislation. Such a concession would create a “three tier” market: Red Tractor, EU compliant and EU non-compliant, it warns.
The 2011 David Black Award was made to Paul Toplis, who has worked for almost 40 years in the pig industry as a commercial animal nutritionist. He received the award, among many other things, for his “pioneering research” on nutrition in young pigs.