The Conservatives appear to have dropped a pledge to ban farrowing crates, following a concerted lobbying campaign by the NPA.
Backed by a coordinated NPA campaign, producers have been writing to their MPs in large numbers to explain the animal welfare and economic realities of banning farrowing crates in response to the ‘End the Cage Age’ campaign, led by Compassion in World Farming.
The Conservative manifesto, launched on Sunday, includes a section on animal welfare. Among the pledges are tougher sentences for animal cruelty, new laws on animal sentience and ending ‘excessively long journeys for slaughter and fattening’.
But despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson highlighting in Parliament on the day the election was called how his Party would use Brexit to ban farrowing crates, there was no mention of banning crates or ‘cages’ in the document.
“While this does not mean the issue has gone away, we very much welcome the fact that a ban on farrowing crates has not been included as a manifesto pledge, given the strong focus on the topic recently,” NPA senior policy adviser Ed Barker said.
“We would like to thank all members who have written to their MPs – we believe that the volume of letters from constituents and the sound, logical arguments put forward have focused minds and made the Party realise how damaging a ban would be.”
Letters sent by NPA members made the case that banning farrowing crates would seriously compromise piglet welfare, while adding hefty economic costs to pig production, resulting, inevitably, in an increase in pigmeat imports from countries where crates were still in use. “Rather than a ban, we want the Government and supply chain to support producers who want to explore alternative methods on a voluntary basis,” Ed added.
Defra’s draft Pig Welfare Code, published in September, spelled out the Government’s intention to move away from farrowing crates in future, although it did not set out timescales or go into detail on the conditions that would be attached.
Neither the Labour nor the Lib Dem manifestoes include a ban on farrowing crates. However, a Labour animal welfare manifesto published earlier this year included a pledge to introduce ‘a phased ban on sow farrowing crates with a reasonable phase out period, replacing with safe, free-farrowing systems’. Farmers would be supported in moving to free farrowing systems by farm support payments for a transition period, the document said.
“Without the NPA’s intervention, we believe this issue would have been much higher on the agenda as the parties launched their manifestoes. This shows how NPA lobbying, supported by members taking the time to write to their MPs can make a difference,” Ed said.