Farming: Lyon issues challenge over sow stalls ban

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Tonio Borg, the new European Union food commissioner, was yesterday challenged by Scottish MEP George Lyon to take action against those member states that have failed to comply with the ban on sow stalls.

Two weeks after the ban became law, 21 member states are still non-compliant. The UK unilaterally banned sow stalls more than a decade ago and pig producers in this country feel they are facing illegal and unfair competition.

Recently, the National Pig Association representing the UK pig sector estimated that up to 40 per cent of EU pigs were still being produced on farms that were flouting the rules.

European Commission figures from December showed that only five member states were fully compliant and some of Britain’s biggest competitors failed to convert their production systems. For example, France is only 33 per cent compliant, Germany 45 per cent and Denmark, the largest exporter of pork is 85 per cent compliant.

Lyon said it was clear that there was widespread non-
compliance – “yet, all we have heard from commissioner Borg is a deafening silence”. He compared the inaction of Borg, who has been in the post for two months, with the action of his predecessor, John Dalli who when investigating non-
compliance with the ban on battery caged hens sent teams of inspectors into non-compliant countries to gather evidence, and also promised that the commission would take these countries to court.

“Member states’ failure to comply with the sow stall ban is of even greater magnitude, and yet we’ve heard nothing from the commissioner on what action he intends to take to force countries to comply with the ban and what he intends to do to tackle the huge quantity of 
illegally-produced pig meat that is still flooding on to the European market,” said Lyon.

“Scottish and UK producers have spent millions investing in new housing to meet these higher welfare rules and they had every right to expect to be able to compete on a level playing field with other European producers when the ban came into force.

“But, instead, they are still having to compete with …against huge quantities of cheaper, illegally produced pork products.”