Vicky Ford, Member of the European Parliament for the East of England, claims that supermarkets in the UK are still stocking pork produced by European farmers keeping pigs in small metal cages to cut costs.
Earlier this year Blacks of Bacton, a family-owned pig farmers based in Sussex, announced that it will give up farming after being independent since 1926, meaning that its herd of 1,500 pigs will be sent to slaughter.
UK pig farmers have been campaigning for years for a level playing field on welfare issues so that their prices are not undercut by continental producers.
The new rules partially banning sow stalls, a metal enclosure used in intensive pig farming, come into force on 1 January 2013, but Mrs Ford argues that farmers in many countries are not compliant.
The MEP argues that supermarkets are not taking steps to ensure their meat is compliant.
“The UK pig industry is facing great uncertainty and pig farmers across the region have been struggling to compete against their European counterparts since 1999 when the UK introduced higher welfare standards for pigs and banned the use of sow stalls” said Ford.
“There is meant to be an EU ban from the end of this year but it is now clear that despite years of notice, farmers in some other countries have not complied.”
Not only are UK own pig farmers facing a huge increase in grain prices but they are also having to compete with exported pork products that can be sold at a much cheaper price as it doesn’t meet the same quality standards.
Ford urged shoppers to buy British by looking for products with the Little Red Tractor logo.
Chairman of the National Pig Association, Richard Longthorp, said there “is still a long way to go” before British supermarkets stop selling pork that doesn’t meat welfare standards.
“Pork product manufacturers must also be held to account for their sourcing policies, particularly in light of new information from the EU Commission which suggests many countries are falling way behind their predicted level of compliance,” he added.
There are only a few weeks to go until the partial sow stall ban comes into force and the EU will need to act swiftly to crack down on countries that fail to comply.