Brussels causes British pig farmers to face £28 million bill over a millimetre
Brit pig farmers face £28m bill because Brussels says gaps in shed floors are millimetre over
A new European Union directive has decreed that the maximum size of a gap should be reduced to 18mm
Bacon, pork and ham would all become more expensive if supplies to shops were disrupted as a result
About a third of the 9.5 million pigs reared in this country each year live indoors on concrete slatted floors
By Valerie Elliott
PUBLISHED: 23:44, 7 April 2012 | UPDATED: 23:44, 7 April 2012
British farmers could be forced to spend about £28 million revamping their pig sheds – because a new ruling from Brussels says gaps in the floors are a millimetre too wide.
Many are threatening to quit farming altogether rather than spend cash on what they call ‘millimetre madness’.
Bacon, pork and ham would all become more expensive if supplies to shops were disrupted as a result.
About a third of the 9.5 million pigs reared in this country each year live indoors on concrete slatted floors.
For more than 20 years, the gaps between the slats have been governed by a British industry standard that has stipulated an opening of three- quarters of an inch (19mm).
These gaps are vital for hygiene.
But a new European Union directive set to come into force next January has decreed that the maximum size of a gap should be reduced to 18mm.
Animal welfare chiefs in Brussels believe this will stop pigs catching their trotters and suffering injuries.
But farmers and vets say there is no evidence that pigs are being hurt.
And they add that a narrower gap could hamper the cleaning of the sheds and leave pigs in dirty conditions, which could cause infections.
Urgent talks are now being held between the National Pig Association (NPA) and Jim Paice, Food and Farming Minister.
NPA chairman Richard Longthorpe said: ‘We are worried that farmers will fall foul of the law if they are 1mm out. What we need is a pragmatic solution.’
About 800 of Britain’s 2,500 commercial pig farmers could be affected, although the NPA is conducting a survey to establish a more accurate figure.
On average, if each farmer had to replace the flooring in a shed for 1,000 animals, it would cost £35,000, giving a total bill of £28 million.
Richard Lister, 49, from Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire, has a herd of 80,000 pigs. He says the new rule would land him with a bill for £120,000 – and that he would quit pig farming rather than pay to have the work carried out.
Mr Lister said: ‘It is another part of the ridiculousness that is Brussels. If we had a problem with our slats, we would have a lot of lame pigs and that is not the case. Everyone I’ve spoken to thinks it’s mad.’
Dr Steve McOrist, a pig spokesman for the British Veterinary Association, said straw bedding could become trapped in the smaller gaps. ‘If pigs have contact with their own manure, the incidence of salmonella would be higher,’ he said.
A spokesman at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: ‘It is too early to make any comment about the new rules.’