March 2015 – Shocking plans for antibiotics

Back in the real world after my training course, we’ve all been suffering election fever here at the NPA. By the time this edition of Pig World is printed, we’ll know who has been elected to form our Producer Group and Allied Industry Group, and the process will have begun to determine the next chairman of the association. Richard Longthorp will certainly be a tough act to follow.

The first shocker this month was a meeting with the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) about new medicated feed regulations that are being drafted by the EC. The VMD will be responsible for enforcing the new regulations in the UK, and our discussions have revealed deeply disturbing targets, but I’m not convinced that it has entirely bought into our concerns.

Numbers appear to have been plucked from thin air with no evidence to back them up – just as long as they’re lower than whatever went before – and the feed industry tells us they’re impossible to achieve. And suggestions that vets must examine every animal before prescribing are not practical at all for large populations, and not even possible for aquaculture!

Home mill and mixers will also be affected by this craziness, so we need to be aware and engaged in what’s being proposed. What’s even more concerning is the speed at which this is being pushed through. The EC wants it all wrapped up by August this year; we certainly have some work to do.

The second shocker was a meeting that Lizzie and I had with the Deer Initiative to discuss the feral wild boar problem. Apparently the population in the Forest of Dean and surrounding area is already estimated to be more than 1,000 animals, and the Forestry Commission openly admits it has failed to control the population growth – it has only managed to cull 15% of the population instead of taking out 53%!

Based on current breeding patterns, the population could reach 10,000 animals by 2017 if not controlled. This means that should we get a notifiable disease in the area, it would be impossible to prove disease freedom, so goodbye export markets! Obviously this is not something that we’re happy about, so have offered to get involved and help.

On the plus side, most of the special interest groups, like the RSPCA, RSPB and Wildlife Trust, are supportive of reducing the population to a “sustainable level” that’s yet to be defined. If I had my way it would be a population of two, and the male would be vasectomised.

The NPA travelled out to Brussels last week for a breakfast that was hosted by Vicky Ford MEP. Vicky, who has always been a staunch supporter of the British pig industry, has given us a platform to promote British pork and our higher-welfare systems to officials at the European Parliament and other MEPs.

Our aim was to challenge the EC’s continued lack of enforcement of the partial sow stall ban, but we also wanted to launch the NPA manifesto that’s been specifically designed for MEPs with a list of “asks” for our sector.

> Dr Zoë Davies is chief executive of the NPA.
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