May 2016: Fighting for more recognition

Spring has well and truly sprung (although it’s still flipping cold) and at long last we’re seeing a much needed recovery in the pig price – hoorah! It may only be small, but the eternal optimist in me keeps saying “it’s a start”.

My life appears to have been taken over by the antibiotics debate. Hot on the heels of the animal rights issues a few weeks ago, we became aware that several new campaigns were being launched specifically targeting the pig industry and using overuse of antibiotics as a hook to attract media attention. One of those campaigns will be a high-profile celebrity endorsed “turn your nose up to factory farming” fake-fact fest, and is due to launch the same week as the Pig & Poultry Fair – how very dare they!

We’ve become increasingly tired of being on the back foot and constantly in defence mode, so back at NPA HQ, we started hatching a plan. Now, it isn’t just the pressure groups that have us in their sights, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate is also pointing a finger, and it seems that all of our efforts so far, including the newly launched electronic medicines book for pigs, have been pooh-poohed by some as too little, too late.
On the contrary, I think that there’s plenty going on out there in the industry that people need to be aware of, so we’re proposing an antibiotic stewardship programme for the industry, similar to that launched by the poultry sector in 2011. The programme will allow us to accept that we have a part to play in preventing antibiotic resistance and are willing to do our bit. Hopefully, then, we should get a little more recognition and better understanding that the pig industry is responsible and willing to get on and do whatever needs to be done!

I also had a useful couple of days in Brussels the other week – COPA, the EU farmers’ association, always has a meeting the day before our official Civil Dialogue Group with the European Commission (EC) to get agreement on how COPA will represent all member states’ opinions, as not all of them are allowed to attend.

The key areas of contention included: the EC coming to the negotiating table with the Mercosur countries (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay etc) with a suggested deal on “sensitive” products, 12,000t of that for pig meat with a much reduced import tariff; the fact that the EC isn’t interested in re-opening private storage for lower-value fat and lard products; and the fact it’s patting itself on the back that ASF hasn’t spread any further (although it’s still failing to eradicate it).

The welfare groups present asked if the EC was planning on banning CO2 stunning of pigs as a previous report by the European Food Standards Agency suggested that it should be phased out. The Commission stated that as there were no viable commercial alternatives available, CO2 stunning would stay for now.

I’m very much looking forward to catching up with you all at the Pig Fair. The whole NPA team will be there on both days, so do pop by for a jammy dodger and a chat. We’re on stand 72, sharing with Pig World and opposite AHDB Pork.

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About The Author

Dr Zoë Davies is chief executive of the NPA. For more information visit: www.npa-uk.org.uk