Pig producers urge Defra to reject 'unscientific' transport plans

The National Pig Association warns that Defra's proposed changes will damage the sector
The National Pig Association warns that Defra's proposed changes will damage the sector

Pig producers have urged Defra to reject proposals to improve animal welfare in transport as they have been 'driven by perceived wisdom, rather than science.'

In December, Defra proposed the introduction of tighter rules on the transport of livestock with the aim of boosting animal welfare.

The consultation, for England and Wales, focused particularly on ending the live exports of livestock for slaughter and further fattening.

If the controversial proposals were implemented, they would introduce new limits on journey times for pigs of 18 hours.

A 48-hours rest between journeys would be introduced, along with the prevention of journeys where external temperatures were below 5°C or above 30°C.

The proposals would also set restrictive new requirements for space and headroom, and ban journeys by sea if the wind was more than a strong breeze.

While the UK does not export pigs for slaughter, the National Pig Association (NPA) said the proposed changes would damage the sector.

The industry body said the measures would unlikely improve pig welfare as they were 'not backed by the available evidence'.

The NPA response stressed that any future regulatory changes 'should be based upon sound fundamental and applied science and not be derived from emotive concerns or political expediency'.

The group's senior policy adviser Rebecca Veale said: “We are disappointed that the apparent assumption made by Defra is that current practice in the pig sector is sub-standard."

She said there was 'very limited evidence' to suggest this during transport for both domestic and international journeys.

“We sincerely hope that Defra takes into account the points raised by the NPA and others and works with us to ensure that any future proposed changes to pig transport policy are based on evidence, not sentiment."

Responding to criticism of the plans at the recent NFU conference, Environment Secretary George Eustice said Defra would ‘look very closely’ at the issues raised and stressed that he wanted this to be a ‘genuine consultation’.