DESPITE having more than a decade to implement European Union regulations on sow stalls, it has been estimated that up to 40 per cent of EU pig production is still coming from farms that are not compliant with the animal welfare rules.
To avoid this trade in illegally-farmed pigs, British shoppers have been urged by the National Pig Association, which represents UK producers, to buy only home-produced ham and bacon.
According to NPA calculations, about 40,000 pigs an hour are being delivered to continental processing plants from farms that are breaking welfare rules.
These pigs come from farms where sows are confined in individual metal cages known as stalls, which are now outlawed by European Union animal welfare legislation.
Prompted by NPA, the European Commission health and consumer department has called EU member countries to a meeting on 28 January to discuss the crisis.
Stalls have not been permitted in the United Kingdom for more than a decade, but figures released by Brussels last month showed that 80 per cent of European Union countries were not yet compliant with the ban. France was only 33 per cent compliant with the European stalls ban, Germany only 48 per cent and Ireland only 57 per cent.
Other countries failing to meet the deadline included Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain.
At its meeting later this month, the European Commission is expected to claim that the picture is not as bleak as the statistics suggest because now the regulation is in place, member countries will be able to start taking enforcement action.
NPA said it believed that some European countries would strictly enforce the stalls ban, but others simply would not have the necessary infrastructure to identify law-breaking farms.
Because of this failing, the NPA believed there would be significant law-breaking problem for some time to come.
“We have been pressuring Brussels for more than a year to take measures to protect European consumers from illegally-produced pigmeat. Its stock response has always been that it could do nothing until the regulation came into being on 1 January 2013.
“Well that date is now past and it needs to act urgently to have any chance of keeping its integrity intact,” said NPA chairman Richard Longthorp.