We need a conversation about pig farming reality versus consumer ideology

December? Wow… where did 2017 go? Far too much time has been stolen this month by yet another vegan animal rights ‘exposé’.

It all kicked off one evening when a distressed farmer rang after a letter was delivered to his house by taxi, reportedly from Channel 5, requesting his comment on footage they apparently had from his farm.

I was about to tell him to dismiss it as the letter looked exceptionally amateur and possibly fake, when another call came in from a vet saying APHA were doing a spot check on one of his clients’ farms as a result of footage they had been sent. Red Tractor (RT) had also been sent the information, so were able to identify four farms had been implicated.

They immediately arranged spot checks and spent the next few days trying to dissuade Channel 5 from running the story, which they eventually did.

Importantly, neither APHA nor RT found anything fundamentally wrong, despite what the activists attempted to portray. Inevitably, we received a flurry of moans from industry saying no farm should look like that or leave animals like that in the pen, but those people are rarely aware of the facts and would, I suspect, have a different opinion if the boot was on the other foot.

What I do know, however, is that despite being rightly proud of our standards, the public is becoming increasingly uneasy with how their food is produced. Andrea and I took a group of Defra and Environment Agency staff around a fully slatted rearing facility this week.

It was new and top notch, but for some of these unsuspecting newbies, it was too much to bear as one trotted out because of the smell (which I thought was pretty good!). We did manage have a really good conversation with them afterwards surrounding human perception vs. pig needs and consumer ideology vs. reality. Hopefully, some left with a slightly less fixed view of the world.

One great thing to happen this month was seeing Charlie Allen receive the David Black award for services to the pig industry. For those who don’t know

Charlie, aside from being one of the founders of Thames Valley Cambac, has always been a great force within the industry. He rarely says anything unless it is of real importance and is highly regarded by many for his sage advice and no-nonsense attitude. We had a good chortle though when the trade press reported his award and, after picking up on how Charlie had described himself, ran the headline: ‘Simple farmer wins David Black award’. Bless him… it was a richly deserved award too.

Things are looking up for the NPA elections after a few more nominations trickled in. I would still encourage anyone still thinking about it to put their names forward – the more people that stand, the better the election, so please get on with it! The nomination period closes on January 8

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About The Author

Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.