Freedom to modernise is vital for the future of family pig farms

Family pig farms are still viable but won’t remain so unless producers are allowed to modernise in tune with current retail demands, according to a newly-republished “Planning Brief” from the National Pig Association (NPA).

Designed to be used as a briefing document with planning authorities, the NPA publication acknowledges that Britain’s increasingly urbanised population favours small-scale mixed farming where every farm keeps just a few pigs, as opposed to a few farms keeping larger herds of pigs.

“Given the demands of powerful supermarkets and a growing population which demands cheap food, such farms are no longer economic,” it states. “The challenge for Britain’s pig farmers, therefore, is to deliver Government’s model of sustainable intensification in a way that is acceptable to a range of interested bodies, including local communities, local planning authorities and environmental regulators.”

With the national pig industry having halved over the last 15 years, the publication warns there will be further contraction if the industry’s housing infrastructure becomes progressively unfit for purpose.

“The reality of modern agriculture may be at variance with the popular image of small peasant farms in a rural idyll, but that does not mean modern agriculture is wrong,” says NPA, adding that farmers involved in a planning application for new pig housing, should seek to allay any public concerns by engaging with local communities to explain exactly what the application involves, and if necessary address specific issues.”

The publication also points out, however, that the natural concerns of local residents are inceasingly being hijacked by “professional anti-meat campaigners” from around the world.

“It is difficult,” it states, “for farmers to cope with this kind of pressure as it is often characterised by the use of selective and misleading propaganda and the use of emotive terms such as ‘factory farming’.”

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