Why is it that every Pig Fair coincides with another blinking animal rights incursion?
Seriously I think they do it on purpose… this time Sky News threatened to run a horrific story on day two of the Fair showing pigs being kicked and poked with pitchforks.
Although thankfully this didn’t happen, they did run it a week later, by which time the affected business had invited all the authorities come in to inspect, terminated the employment of the offending staff and called in the police and RSPCA to launch an investigation – somewhat taking the heat out of their awful story.
Now for obvious reasons I’m not going into detail, but I know there are producers out there questioning how this could have happened again, so I am going to address. I’m not acting as apologist or defender, protective as I am over all of our members. I could never justify animal abuse and neither did the family.
The right course of action was swiftly taken and a criminal investigation launched. As to how it could have been allowed to happen in the first place? Well that’s a difficult question and one that I know is still being debated alongside Trojan efforts to ensure it can never happen again. We launched a Pig Unit Security Pack for members at the Fair, all part of the Incursion Support Network set up to help the industry prevent, and cope with, situations like this.
After hearing reports of APHA threatening farmers with court action if they don’t trial tail-on pigs, we’re aware some producers have started trials in anticipation of a challenge. While it’s great to see the issue taken seriously, problems may arise if people aren’t prepared and trigger factors haven’t been identified and managed.
We advise people to never mix docked and un-docked pigs and to have a good plan in place for what to do if an outbreak starts. It’s more about having evidence to show that you’ve looked at reducing risk of biting rather than going for gold, but I’ve asked Defra to revisit the hard line stance. The last thing we want to do is to create a welfare problem and a whole raft of producers swearing never to try that again! We’ve suggested they fund some work on outbreak management.
We’re also developing a cohesive plan on feral pig management in the Forest of Dean. I’ve been talking to the local MP about the industry/Forestry Commission coming together to co-fund a dedicated resource to co-ordinate efforts by landowners, farmers, councils, stalkers, Forestry Commission and Natural England to control the boar population more effectively.
All I need to do now is convince the AHDB Pork Board that it is worth supporting. I’d hope with the emphasis on export markets and the risk those feral pigs pose, they will agree it is an entirely sensible use of levy payers money!
Dr Zoë Davies is chief executive of the NPA.