WAV Comment. The UK has high animal welfare standards and should be proud of that. Most people dont want antibiotic ridden meat on their plates and produce that comes from nations which employ lower welfare standards. In the end cost is probably one driving factor, but another issue is that all meat products should be clearly labelled to inform the buyer of the standards that ‘their’ chunk of meat was produced around – was it UK or overseas produced ? – if overseas, then where from ? – was it from a non EU caged system ? – was it ritually slaughtered or stunned (properly) at the time of slaughter ?
Thus, clear labelling on food products thus gives the consumer a clear choice about what they purchase. If it bad welfare and cheap, from the far east then the consumer will know. If it is more expensive, but from cage free systems, and with less antibiotics and water in the meat, and killed to an acceptable standard, then the consumer still has the knowledge to buy a product which will cost more. In the UK, research shows that consumers are prepared to pay more for meat which is produced to better welfare standards.
If lower welfare US produced meat does not sell well in the UK, then the British customer has sent a message to the US – simple.
At the end of the day, it should be down to the well informed (clear labelling) consumer to decide. Personally, I think the UK consumer will pay more for higher welfare standards – it has been shown. Farmers, supermarlets, the government, get a grip and tell people the reality about products.
Saving the bacon: will British pig farmers survive a ban on cages?
An end to UK pig confinement is in sight, but producers fear they will be left carrying the cost of high-welfare options in the face of cheap imports
After more than a decade trialling the removal of pig cages on her Yorkshire farm, Vicky Scott has lost confidence in being able to make it permanent.
Doing so would require building a new shed to create enough space to freely house all her pigs, she says. “No one will pay for this. They [the retailers] want products as cheap as chips and consumers want cheap meat.”
Yet, the UK and EU are expected to ban all forms of confinement in pig rearing.
In June, the European Commission confirmed it would table a proposal to phase out the use of farrowing crates, which are used to confine sows before and after birth, by the end of 2023. The UK – and Boris Johnson himself – have made clear that the long-term aim is to do the same.
Crates are used to confine expectant sows until their piglets are weaned after four weeks. They restrict the sows’ movement, reducing the risk of crushing the piglets.
However, as well as restricting sows’ natural behaviour and movement, including nest-building and interacting with her piglets, there is also evidence the crates increase the risk of stillbirth.
Piglets are vulnerable to being crushed by sows if they are not in a crate, but the overall mortality rates can be managed, says pig specialist Emma Baxter, from Scotland’s Rural College. Outdoor pig systems, where pigs are not confined, consistently return average piglet mortality rates similar to indoor ones where the pigs are confined, she says.
Given the majority of pigs in the UK are reared indoors because outdoor rearing is limited by soil type, producers will need to be able to adopt high-welfare indoor alternatives to farrowing crates, says Baxter.
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