Zinc oxide proposal is just political points scoring, but prepare for a ban anyway

I often catch myself thinking about the bizarre variety of topics that I find myself dealing with on a daily basis and realise that this is exactly why I love this job.

It will never get dull. From members being sent private data that they shouldn’t have been from a Government organisation, to feral pigs in the Forest of Dean trashing graveyards, via more Pig Save joys, helping NFU with data on the pig sector for post-Brexit trade arrangements, and quickly getting up to speed on Pregnant Mare’s Serum Gonadotropin (PMSG) following an approach by the Mirror, you couldn’t make it up.

Thankfully, I have such an excellent team around me who make life much simpler.
Pregnant Mare’s what?? I hear you say. Apparently it’s taken from the blood of pregnant mares and used sparingly to correct fertility issues or synchronise oestrus in pigs and other species.

Although we think use is quite minimal from what the vets tell us, we still don’t really know how much is used here, or if people using it realise what it contains. But as licensed products, you would expect them to be produced ethically.

My gut feeling is that even if we buy ourselves some time for now, this decision is political, so they will find the data they need to ban use of zinc oxide at some point. We need to be looking at alternatives

Also, I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but it really irritates me when we are approached for a comment by the media. We provide them with a simple but clear response, which obviously isn’t what they want to hear, so they just run with a story full of scaremongering inaccuracies anyway. What followed was a rush of industry phone calls, joint statements and plenty of emails to processors, retailers and Defra, to quell any potential panic – and that was half a day gone.

Still, I also found out during the same fact-finding mission, that some human Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) treatments contain pregnant mare’s urine, so it’s been quite a voyage of discovery!

The good news on the zinc oxide front is that following an appeal by the manufacturers, the committee that produced an opinion suggesting it should be banned have agreed to re-evaluate the opinion and include the much-needed data that was missing last time.

My gut feeling, though, is even if we buy ourselves some time for now, this decision is political, so they will find the data they need to ban it at some point. We need to be looking for alternatives, for sure, but we have also used this time to give the Veterinary Medicines Directorate a comprehensive briefing, and they have agreed to look at a phased out approach, should the worst come to the worst.

There’s more seeping out from Defra, too, on plans for farm animal welfare post-Brexit, following a recent Westminster Hall debate. Clearly, we need to get some sense into this thought process as what they are planning, in terms of incentivising ‘higher welfare’ systems and tiering in the pig industry, is completely at odds with the vision of most retailers!

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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