A recent National Pig Association (NPA) press release (3rd May 2013) calls for a 'gentle and gradual renewal' of the British pig industry, and suggests that this should be done with indoor intensive methods. There is nothing either gentle or gradual in the current application (which the NPA supports) for a new mega farm near Foston in Derbyshire, where 25,000 pigs would be kept in close indoor confinement in a complex of 14 industrial scale buildings less than 150 metres from a women's prison and natal unit. It's remarkable that the NPA still pushes for this defective system at a time when authorities in other European countries, notably Germany and the Netherlands are refusing applications for the building of new factory farms, and ordering some existing facilities to be scaled down in size.
Why does the NPA not suggest an increase in outdoor pig farming, or indoors with plenty of straw, daylight and fresh air, where the sows and fattening pigs have the space to move around at will, do not require antibiotics and where the health of local residents are not at risk from allergy-causing particles and antibiotic resistant organisms? Anyone in any doubt about these dangers should read the UK Health Protection Agency Position Statement on Intensive Farming.
The NPA letter goes on to say that local residents who are confronted with plans to build a factory pig farm in their neighbourhood 'should not allow the views of pressure groups to be foisted upon them'. In my experience people are quite capable of making up their own minds, and the overwhelming majority of residents near the Foston and Powderham sites were opposed to the plans and organised their own campaigns to counter the industrial farmers 'pressure groups', namely the NFU and NPA.
The NPA suggests that pressure groups are pushing for 'smaller scale subsistence farming', implying that they support only part time farming on small holdings. I know of no pressure group that is calling exclusively for this type of farming. In the UK 40% of sows are permanently outdoors on small and medium sized farms which will be undermined if we allow giant indoor farms to open in the UK. We have lost 50% of our pig herd since the late nineties. We should be protecting those high welfare farmers that have miraculously survived the Blair government's disjointed policy of raising UK welfare standards whilst at the same time allowing cheap imports from factory farming methods - which are illegal in the UK.
Finally, this NPA press release suggests that there is no MRSA in UK pigs and that this is because of low density. There has been very little testing for MRSA in the UK compared with other EU countries, and the figures show that use of antibiotics in UK meat production is no less than in other EU countries. Of all antibiotics used in the UK, 45% are given to farm animals of which 60% are given to pigs, primarily in intensive systems to prevent diseases breaking out in the stressful, overcrowded and contagious conditions.
- Case Study of a Health Crisis: How human health is under threat from over-use of antibiotics in intensive livestock farming (CIWF/Sustain/Soil Association, 2013)
- Position Statement: Intensive Farming (Health Protection Agency, 2006)