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Swill-feeding of pigs under debate in UK

By Nicholas Robinson+

18-Oct-2013
Last updated on 18-Oct-2013 at 11:04 GMT2013-10-18T11:04:22Z

Swill-feeding of pigs under debate in UK

Pig farmers in the UK are fiercely debating whether the regulation preventing them swill-feeding pigs should be repealed.

Campaign group The Pig Idea has been appealing for a revision to the European Commission (EC) Regulation No 1069/2009 since June, to allow food waste, including catering waste, to be diverted for use in pig feed, which would include swill.

However, the National Pig Association (NPA) told MPs at an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Agroecology, food waste and pig feed earlier this week, that swill-feeding was a “risk too far”.

Lead to disease outbreak

NPA chairman Richard Longthorp claimed a return to swill-feeding, which was banned in 2001 following the outbreak of foot and mouth in the UK, would bring with it the risk of foot and mouth and African Swine Fever (ASF).

He said to MPs during the debate: “The countryside will once again be alight with funeral pyres. And the NPA will be taking call after call after call from grief-stricken farmers wanting to know what to do, because they can’t move their pigs, and they can’t move their sheep.”

Acting general manager of the NPA Lizzie Press told MPs there would only be a market for pig swill if producers thought it was a good idea “and they remain to be convinced”. She said calls from campaign groups, such as The Pig Idea, to bring back swill-feeding were “sending the wrong signals”, even if the swill was treated following tight regulations.

“The only way to prevent major outbreaks, such as occurred in 2001, is to maintain uncompromisingly strict biosecurity to keep it away from farms,” she added.

Many want swill-feeding

Yet The Pig Idea told GlobalMeatNews.com that it was not calling for swill-feeding to become mandatory in the pig sector. Charlotte Jaman, a spokeswoman for the organisation, said there were many pig farmers up and down the UK who wanted to see a repeal of the law preventing them from swill-feeding. “There are pig farmers who use food waste where possible to feed their pigs now. There are pro-change pig farmers in the UK,” she added.

“We are just saying that, ‘do you think pig farmers should have the option [to swill-feed]?’”.

She claimed that, if swill-feed is properly processed, it would not pose risks in terms of ASF or foot and mouth. Feeding pigs swill would be better for the environment than growing virgin crops, she added, however, Jaman admitted more research needed to be done on the topic before a move was made.

“We are not pro-return to back yard swill-feeding, we are proposing a thorough investigation to set up a safe system that is rigorous all along the supply chain,” she said.

Environmental perks

Both the NPA and The Pig Idea agreed they would like to make it cheaper to produce pork, whilst reducing food waste and environmental strain. Jaman said: “They [the NPA] have concerns and there is a significant amount of common ground, much of that is in reducing waste.”

Longthorp also identified opportunities for the two groups to work together and said: “Can’t we just go for the low-hanging fruit? Let’s see if we can find some common goals.”