Representatives from the NPA and Pig Veterinary Society (PVS) have held what they described as a ‘constructive’ meeting with Defra Minister Zac Goldsmith on the subject of farrowing crates.
NPA chairman Richard Lister, NPA chief executive Zoe Davies and PVS past-president Duncan Berkshire discussed the challenges of moving to alternative systems with Lord Goldsmith during a 45-minute meeting via video-conference.
Lord Goldsmith has in the past supported Compassion in World Farming’s End the Cage Age campaign to ban farrowing crates and other forms of confinement on farms.
However, since becoming a Defra Minister, he has also agreed that any change ‘needs to be done in a way that not only protects both the sow and her piglets, but in a way that is sustainable for the industry’ and, more importantly, has intimated his desire to work with the industry to help achieve this aim.
Dr Davies said the meeting was therefore an opportunity for the NPA and PVS to set out the industry’s position and to discuss the challenges associated with moving to alternative systems, particularly the likely increase in piglet mortality and lack of research and advice available for those wishing to make the move.
“:We all agreed that this was a very encouraging first meeting with Zac Goldsmith,” she said.
“He appeared genuinely interested in understanding the issues and working with the industry on finding solutions. He asked a lot of questions and wanted to hear our views about the various options, the barriers that would need to be overcome and how Government could help.“
“We discussed the need for the demonstration of successful systems and how we can learn from those pioneers already using alternative systems. We have also invited him out on farm so he can see for himself where the challenges lie.
“The pig sector has always been forward-thinking and positive and I am sure he appreciated our constructive approach. Whilst we must ensure that all of our concerns are properly addressed and we have the necessary time and support to explore what is possible, we are optimistic that we can work together and develop a plan for the future.”
Defra has made it clear that it wishes to phase out the system that is widely used across the pig sector. The new Pig Welfare code expresses an aspiration to ‘move towards a future where farrowing crates are no longer necessary’.
Prior to the meeting, the NPA sent the Defra Minister a comprehensive briefing setting out the NPA’s position.