Misguided food plea attacked by farmers

Richard Longthorpe at his British Pork banner
Richard Longthorpe at his British Pork banner
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A SCHEME to encourage the EU to lift its ban on feeding catering waste to pigs has met with disapproval with farming groups.

A SCHEME to encourage the EU to lift its ban on feeding catering waste to pigs has met with disapproval with farming groups.

A group of high-profile restaurants held a free public feast for more than 5,000 people in London’s Trafalgar Square to raise awareness of The Pig Idea campaign, which is calling for food that is legally unfit for humans to be used as pig feed.

Those behind the idea said the move would conserve food supplies, cut waste and farming costs and protect the environment.

They also want a change to European law to allow food leftovers to be fed to pigs, backed by the introduction of a robust legal framework for its safe processing and use to avoid spreading animal diseases.

However the National Pig Association said the Feeding the 5,000 event was a “superficially attractive concept, promoted by well-meaning people, but destined to fail because it is fundamentally unsafe”.

A spokesman said: “Even if it did, the idea could not work commercially, because the overwhelming majority of British pig farmers, refuse to contemplate feeding swill, because of the disease risk involved and because they are opposed to cannibalistic feeding on ethical and food safety grounds.”

The National Pig Association is opposed to feeding swill because even if the practice were to be allowed by law, inevitably there would, sooner or later, be a regulatory breakdown in one or more of the European Union’s 28 member countries, with the consequent serious disease risk.

The British pig industry already uses 1.23m tonnes a year of co-product from the human food chain and this accounts for 43.9 per cent of total pig feed produced.

“Pig producers prefer to describe ‘waste food’ as ‘co-product’ because, in the pig industry’s view, no food is waste if it can be used safely in nutritious pig diets,” said NPA chairman and Yorkshire farmer Richard Longthorp.

“But any waste food we use must be clean, wholesome, contain zero porcine material and must have an independently-audited supply chain that is strictly controlled and regulated.

“Pig farmers stand ready to do everything they can to recycle waste food — but that does not mean they are prepared to let their animals become society’s dustbins.”

Notifiable diseases such as foot and mouth disease, classical swine fever and African swine fever can survive in meat for long periods and are easily transferred from meat to other produce, which is why feeding some waste foods to pigs is so problematic.

These diseases are easily transferred between pigs and some can infect other livestock species too, so they can spread quickly.

A spokeswoman for Defra reinforced the message, saying: “Feeding farm animals catering waste, kitchen scraps or meat is prohibited to prevent introduction and spread of diseases, such as foot and mouth, swine fever and avian flu.”

NPA Position on Feeding ‘Waste Food’ to Pigs can be viewed here: http://goo.gl/pSbsCK

Disaster caused by waste

Given the prevalence around the world of foot and mouth disease, classical swine fever and African swine fever, and the free movement of people, vehicles and goods, some of these diseases are inevitably already present in Britain and the only way to prevent economically-debilitating national outbreaks is to prevent the viruses coming into contact with farm animals.

Feeding untreated waste food to pigs has been directly responsible for major outbreaks, including the 2001 foot and mouth disaster in Britain.